A pit stop for sec­ond chances

> Ad­dress­ing the is­sue of home­less­ness and ur­ban poverty

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

their plas­tic bowls to us. And upon re­ceiv­ing their food, they thanked us, and took their seat – ei­ther in the cafe, or by the five-foot way.

The crowd com­prised var­i­ous peo­ple – the home­less, the poor, moth­ers with chil­dren, bluecol­lared and even white-coloured work­ers who came in an or­derly man­ner for the food.

Some also placed money into a clear box near the en­trance, as pay­ment for their meals. Some were also seen com­ing back in line for sec­onds – with smiles in their faces each time a spoon­ful of por­ridge or bubur chacha is placed into their bowl.

While these cus­tomers were eat­ing, Joyce­lyn Lee, the cafe’s co-founder, took time to talk to the cus­tomers as they en­joyed their meals.

In about an hour, all the food were al­most cleared, and the cus­tomers left the cafe with a sat­is­fied look on their faces, and tum­mies filled.

Lee told theSun that this is con­sid­ered a rit­ual for the cafe and its vol­un­teers when the evening crowd come daily (ex­cept Tues­day when it is closed) for the food.

“The food served is healthy, of qual­ity and tasty – we will only serve what we will eat our­selves.

“Our cheap­est meal on the menu is our Bubur Ma­nis (sweet por­ridge), which is about RM2.50, and it is the most pop­u­lar thing with the evening crowd – it is a taste of nos­tal­gia for the peo­ple, re­gard­less of their back­ground,” she said, not­ing that the sweet warm dessert is made based on her fam­ily recipe.

Lee also stressed that the cafe has a strict con­duct in man­ag­ing the crowd daily.

“If you want to eat, you have to stand in line; it does not mat­ter if you are mid­dle man­age­ment or a CEO, we open at 5.30pm and you stand in line,” she said.

“Three main rules here are line up prop­erly, be po­lite and cour­te­ous, and take care of the clean­li­ness and waste no food.”

She also said vol­un­teers have the right to refuse to serve if the cus­tomers were rude to them.

Lee also stressed that Pit Stop, which started its oper­a­tion ear­lier this year, is not a soup kitchen, but a com­mer­cial cafe.

“We serve com­mer­cial lunch with prob­a­bly the cheap­est food in the city – where a plate of Nasi Goreng and an egg and a drink can come up to only about RM5,” she said. The cafe, which aims to be a so­cial en­ter­prise to feed the ur­ban poor, as well as those who are fi­nan­cially stretched, hinges on both its com­mer­cial lunch busi­ness, and fund­ing from the pub­lic to con­tinue its op­er­a­tions.

“Every evening, we give out 125 eggs as well as a min­i­mum of 5kg of veg­eta­bles and 5kg of beans in our food,” she said.

She noted that through its Face­book page (www.face­book. com/pit­stop­cafekl/), the cafe is able to source from the pub­lic.

“Every time you eat in our cafe (dur­ing lunch hour), you help fund our op­er­a­tions,” Lee said.

Lee said that she, along with Tan and an­other co-founder, so­cial ac­tivist Syed Azmi Al­hab­shi, came up with this cafe to help ad­dress and com­bat the home­less is­sue and ur­ban poverty.

“We are a hub for peo­ple who want to serve and feed the needy,” she said.

Lee said she is in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with other non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions to help the needy in the city ac­cord­ing to their needs. She pointed out that this cafe is a be­gin­ning for many things to come.

“Malaysians are still kind peo­ple – times are get­ting harder, and those who can help, will con­tinue help­ing,” she said, adding that help goes to those re­gard­less of race, re­li­gion, gen­der or ori­en­ta­tion.

At the end of the day, I paid for a bowl of bubur chacha, and walked back to the LRT sta­tion with a smile on my face – be­ing able to learn about Lee’s cause and be­ing able to con­trib­ute to it.

In­deed, one should not only try out the food served at the cafe, but try to help out as a vol­un­teer at the cafe, or even con­trib­ute by pay­ing for­ward sus­pended meals to those who are in need.

ZULK­I­FLI ERSAL/THESUN

Vol­un­teers serv­ing the evening pa­trons at Pit Stop Com­mu­nity Cafe.

Lee said the cafe is a be­gin­ning for many things to come.

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