Monday, 25 May 2015

Our New Project: Kedai Jalanan Pop-Up Street Store

Kedai Jalanan is a new community project initiated by my good friend Lin Idrus, comprising a pop-up store offering pre-loved clothing and household items FOC to the homeless and urban poor, and a CV-writing service to help our clients seek better employment. It is currently being coordinated by the student volunteers of Universiti Malaya's Gender Studies Unit, led by Lin, and assisted by Lin's friends, of whom I am one, who have experience and interest in community service projects, particularly those involving the homeless and marginalised.

We collected and sorted through preloved clothes, bags, kitchenware (particularly food and beverage storage containers), mats, towels and blankets, as well as unused hotel and sample-sized toiletries. This is a good way of encouraging donors to declutter and share their resources, and of bringing the said resources directly to the beneficiaries, instead of through intermediary organisations. Most of the clothes donated to recycling centres end up in clothing recycling factories that ship the wearable clothes to impoverished countries for sale in thrift stores, and convert the rest into industrial rags, so very few of the donated clothes ever reach local beneficiaries. 

A pop-up store would also afford our street clients more dignity. The clothes are hung up and displayed neatly just like in a real store, and not left in piles and garbage bags on the ground for our street clients to rummage through. I loved this idea from the start and discussed it earnestly with Lin on Facebook prior to the launch of the project.

Lin describes us as her project advisors but really, we're pretty useless ;) She did all the hard work herself and just came to us for feedback ;) 

Students attending to our street clients who queued up for clothes and other practical items.

Lots of student volunteers helping out. They even collected lots of reusable shopping bags to use so that we didn't have to give out plastic bags.

Cutest chalkboard sign ever.

Student volunteers helping out with the CV writing service. I'm useless ;) I just prepared and printed the forms and gave the students a very dubious impromptu briefing and left the rest up to them ;)

We asked donors for unused packs of personal hygiene items that one gets from hotels and airlines to give away at our pop-up store.

Our street friends waiting for dinner to be served by Dapur Jalanan outside Kuala Lumpur's first post office in Jalan Panggung. When I attended law school in this area, this beautiful heritage building was in disrepair. I am glad they've fixed it up and converted it into a quaint little cafe now.

Student volunteers chatting with one of our street clients :)

I thought I was OCD but Serina and Shekin take the prize for sorting and rearranging the clothes hangers by colour and type.

Debriefing session by our caring and inimitable Dr. Rusaslina Idrus ;)

Group photo of Lin and her student volunteers. Good job, guys!

The five of us -- Lin, Serina, Shekin, Aravind and me -- decided to adjourn to a nearby cafe for tea after packing and tidying up. We chose the Malaya-Hainan Cafe at the corner of Jalan Panggung for several reasons. It used to be in utter ruins, and I wanted to see what it looks like after restoration. Also, it used to be the first post office in Kuala Lumpur, and we hoped the cafe had preserved at least some of the original architectural and design features. And most importantly, Lin informed us that the people who manage/operate the cafe are very supportive of Dapur Jalanan and allow the soup kitchen to connect to their water supply for their food distribution and washing up operations. 

It was the right choice. The cafe has an authentic and tranquil charm about it.

Artwork and framed articles of historical interest adorn the walls.

They have retained/restored/replicated some of the original office doors, partitions, counters and signage of the old Post Office.

The cafe serves authentic local food, and I had this yummy ice kacang, which seemed to be 80% fixings (beans, chendol, syrup etc) and 20% shaved ice. Worth every cent paid. 

Right before leaving to pick up the keys to my apartment, I snapped a photo of this shophouse in Jalan Panggung because I love the classic Art Deco facade and roof. Isn't this simply gorgeous? I wonder how many people walk past this building daily without realising its architectural, cultural and historical significance.

Just an anecdote to end this blogpost with:

One of the clients at our CV-writing booth is a young man who declared with much earnestness and sincerity that he is trying to save up enough capital to set up a small business that will employ only the homeless.

"Only when you've been down there will you realise how hard life on the streets is, how powerless you can feel sometimes, and how often you face rejection from those who have never fallen on hard times like we have."

And I am reminded once again how easy it is for the wealthy to make grand pledges and donations to charity, but how much purer and more magnanimous these acts and pledges are when they come from those who have so little themselves. Thank you, brother, for reminding me once again why I do what I do every weekend.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Picnic Brunch at the Park

One of my best friends, Serina, will be starting a new job abroad soon, so the whole gang got together for a picnic brunch at the Lake Gardens last Saturday. This isn't goodbye. There are no goodbyes between friends, because no distance can keep our hearts apart.

Great food, great company and great conversation.
Everyone turned up to spend time with Serina before her departure.

Leena​ made this yummers pear compote.

And Mohala baked this lovely moist brownie sheet cake.

I made my usual fiesta taco salad.

What a glorious morning! We really should do this more often.

Baby in arms = Happy Ee Lynn.

Azham and I keeping Baby Lulu entertained.

So many old friends from our conservation and volunteering circles.

How many PhDs can you fit on a picnic mat?

The boys play frisbee after the big meal.

I took my godson Aadhavan to the playground so that his parents could eat in peace. I don't know who had more fun -- him or me.

What a lovely gathering. We really shouldn't wait until one of us is leaving before we organise more get-togethers.

Vesākha Procession 2015

Brickfields was transformed into an illuminated faerieland on Vesākha Sunday. Not even the sudden thunderstorm could dampen our spirits as we walked and thought about the teachings of our wise and kind Teacher.

Sabbe Satta Sukhi Hontu: May All Beings Be Well And Happy, on Vesākha and always.

The Vihara, all lit up for Vesākha.

Devotees lining the streets in preparation for walking alongside the floats in the procession.

My flowers for Buddha. They survived the storm although the pot was waterlogged. We still managed to make it back to the Main Prayer Hall in one piece.

The leading float. With a papier-mache elephant.

The Nepali Buddhist organisations' float.

Pickup truck with Lord Buddha riding on top. I always knew Lord Buddha was adventurous.

The Very Bright Float. 
I call this the Tron Float. You're allowed to be irreverent, you know. Humour is good for the soul.

The Myanmar community's fantastic float.

I call this the Pink Float. There are lots of flowers and pink doughnuts on the Pink Float. Yes I know I'm irreverent but Lord Buddha won't mind.

A Lumbini garden themed float.

The Ti-Ratana float, with illuminated panels showing pictures of Reverend and the children. I have to say this is my favourite float.

I call this the hippie float. Cos of the midcentury colours of the halos, or pabhamandala.

So many Buddhist dogs going walkie-walk with the procession.

We took shelter under a bridge during the sudden downpour. I hope none of the floats suffered electrical damage.

High-spirited devotees kicking ass under a huge tarp. Singing and cheering as though they were at a football match. They rock!

Clapping and cheering each time a float made it through the underpass with its lights still on.

Cheerful devotees with their umbrellas despite getting soaked to the skin.