For a seriously long time (and back and fro of DMs!) The Picha Project kept inviting me to join them for dinner cooked by their refugee community, and i was intrigued, to the point i kept promising i would come in time – but had to prioritize other social commitments then.
Everything falls into place and grows organically. Finally, our paths physically crossed when i was a panelist alongside Kim – one of the three Picha Project founders – at the Amazin Graze event a few weeks back.
We spoke about Freedom – its definition, what it means to us, and our personal stories attached to it. I touched on nudity and religion, and Kim spoke on the simple act of being able to live and work freely. Our separate encounters struck strong chords on the human experience.
I left feeling inspired, awestruck, and slightly fluffy for being so carefree in the way i live; whilst others are fighting for their right to work and eat on land they aren’t allowed to call their own. We also spoke on border control and rights, and i stated how i disagreed with how we don’t have the capacity to travel freely as a nomadic or exploratory species. [It is what it is, sigh]
A couple of weeks later, SweetEe (remember how she used to work for KBF? She now works for Amazin Graze hoho) invited me for a vegetarian dinner event specially prepared by the Picha Project refugees, that was being held at Common Ground Bukit Bintang, in collaboration with vegan ice cream brand Kind Kones (who also previously reached out for a collab with me but i was toooo busy to commit…).
I have been insanely packed with social commitments upon my return to KL (to the point i haven’t been able to blog a single bit on Burning Man!) but i really wanted to go for this. With a plus one invite in tow, i got Dhanya (my spiritual coach and actress galpal) to accompany me cos it’s the exact type of outing she would appreciate with. She went vegan for a couple of years, raw even??
To revert to The Picha Project (i assumed everyone who’s reading this knows what they are!); it is “a social enterprise which aims to empower marginalised communities in Malaysia through a sustainable food catering and delivery business. [To] provide job opportunities to families from the marginalised groups by creating a platform for them to cater food to the public, utilizing their existing cooking skills and equipping them further with professional guidance.” Read more *here*
In my casual words > the Picha Project was founded by three Malaysian girls who happened upon the refugees during a university project; and felt so compassionately for them that they dived straight into forming a social company after graduation (much to their parents’ horror. But now they’re totes cool with it, even proud, i’m sure). They spend their time working on marketing the food for meal box deliveries, open houses, and corporate catering services. Kudos to them. I’m so sold on their website offerings. What we don’t see (but am able to only hear when in person, like i did with Kim and Suzanne) is how the team also dedicates an insurmountable amount of time talking to 12+ families. It’s not like just taking care of one family (your own), but layaning a dozen more. That’s crazy. I’m feeling strained just keeping up with mine and my bf’s parents combined with deadlines and friends..! These girls sacrifice a lot to keep this company running. And it’s not something i feel they see as sacrifice per se, but energy they are willingly giving because they feel no other choice in their heart, which i think is AMAZING.
The food that night was prepared by refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine and Iran. And oh MY, what delicious food it was! I have already plotted how my next #CasaFairy party will cater its food cos i just want to eat that aubergine curry again.
Best. Aubergine. Curry. In. My. Life.
I could taste so much effort and LOVE!
It was served buffet style, and i was trying not to be greedy and take too much.
Seems maybe i should have been shameless cos everyone (100+ ppl?) just WENT for it, and the Kind Kones ice cream even RAN OUT cos i was too busy chatting away to people at the table… -_- lolllll
During the dinner, a few personalities went up to speak, including Joshua – a Pakistani refugee who was seated with us. He admitted how he didn’t even know what the word ‘refugee’ meant before he actually became one; after having to leave Pakistan due to religious persecution. He was previously an aeronautical engineering student, before being exiled, and is currently working a day job while giving educational classes to other refugee children at nights in a church in Sentul.
Listening to him speak made me think, “Wow. What am *i* doing with my* time?”
People like him are so committed to helping their community with all the hours they have… it put me in a different perspective as to how we each focus our time on different subjects. Suddenly the thought of surfing Instagram on the latest dress or swimsuit to procure, seemed utterly pointless and shallow.
After Joshua; Rocyie Wong went up to speak >
This is Rocyie & i.
How do i begin with this girl?
I first bumped into her at Coley’s in Bangsar a couple of years ago, where photographer VPYP introduced us saying she’s a fan, and then she proceeded to cry. And she was pretty emotional at the event that day too, till Suzanne (co-founder of PP) told her to ‘stop crying!’
Personally i thought it was endearing and seeing her speak for a longer session in person, made her even more adorable.
Rocyie has been suffering from psoriasis since her early teens, and i’m sure all the pain has accumulated in her, to the point she’s super emo. In my POV, i’m just like Go ahead and cry! Let it outtttt! Hahahaha
She is the founder of projects Safe Space (to connect with others suffering from psoriasis) and Project Naked. Rocyie is also a uni friend of the Picha Project girls, who encouraged her to kick off her personal projects before fear took over her. How’s that for support amongst women! So sweet… it warmed my heart to hear.
Suzanne (1/3 of Picha Project founders) was the last to speak, and what a charismatic one she is. She really wished one of the Afghan women they regularly work with and are extremely close to (also responsible for the aubergine curry!) was present that day but her daughter had to be admitted into the hospital that night (so family first!). Said woman was an active nurse who blatantly spread her teachings to the disapproval of the taliban hence her flee… So here she is now in Malaysia – tending to other fellow refugees while she continues her role as a leader in her community where others turn to her. When she first got here with her family, they were living on the streets till another refugee family took them in… on their balcony (cos they had no space), where they lived in the sun and storms for a few months.
And here i am complaining about camping…
How stories like these put us into perspective on the plights and lives of others.
And how puny our so-called urban problems seem…
Thank you for an eye-opening and inspiring night ladies.
Can’t wait for your next event!
L-R: Dhanya Nambiar, Serina S. Bajaj, Rocyie Wong, me, and Suzanne Ling
Please support the Picha Project by visiting their website – pichaproject.com – so you are more informed about the food services they provide and when you can best utilize them. And even… just talk about them, so more people are in the know 😉