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Rachel Kristen
live, love, laugh. Just the way I like it.
Reaching out on the streets
Tuesday, November 15, 2011, 12:46 AM
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Last Saturday a group of us gathered outside a mamak across a hotel in Pudu knowing we were there for one purpose; to reach out and help the homeless.

Heck even I wasn't sure what to expect. But getting hands on for the first time, approaching people on the streets wasn't an easy task. Just thought I'd pen down my first experience from what I saw and touched that night.

ReachOut was founded early 2008 aiming to provide food, shelter, and job opportunities to those in need. They help the homeless reenter society, to be accepted again. To be part of the norm, all through the feeding program. According to Pete, the founder, he shared this inspiring thought about how people do not deserve to be sleeping on carton boxes or hand-carry luggage simply because people are not born on the streets so there has to be reasons or stories behind the fate of every one of these individuals.

The act of giving away food wasn't simple. It wasn't about feeding them, well how should I put it. Food was a means to get to know them better. You find a reason to talk to them via food. So what volunteers at ReachOut do is get to know them, what these unique individuals worked as or what they were like before they ended up homeless. 

"The direct contact with the people who live a “street existence” has been invaluable in gaining their trust and gathering information on their needs. As a result of these observations we have established a need to treat not just the symptom (hunger) but the cause (poverty). It is clear that there are people willing and able to re enter society if given the opportunity – they just need to be shown the way." (via Reachoutmy)

True enough after walking around streets and alleys past midnight, wondering who we'd find..we heard them stories, stories of all kinds that would make your heart pound a little. 

So anyway we started with a round of briefing to understand what we will be seeing and how to cope with any emotional feelings we may or may not feel afterwards. We were advised to not bring any valuables or wear shorts and sleeveless clothing --you know, just being careful. We were also encouraged to walk towards, not behind or away from these people of the streets.

Photo taken at the lost city of Atlantis.

We walked around Pudu, the stations, the alleys and there, I saw countless people sleeping on the pathway. First thought that came to my mind was..how can there be so many laying here?

I was shocked by the amount of people. So we proceeded to give them buns, water, oranges for Vitamin C, and packet of rice each. There were in total about 200 packets.

 Food that night was sponsored by JAWI

After the first few locations we moved on to Masjid India and Masjid Negara, areas around Petaling Street and off Jalan Ampang near Jalan Gereja..what all these streets have in common is the fact they are filled with homeless people. It's a scary thought when I put myself in their shoes, I never want to see my friends and loved ones end up there.

Stories that were being told were either fantasies or fact. I'd rather the former because the truth was saddening in a way.

One in particular that left me emotional was this guy who claimed he was robbed on the morning itself, all his documents and qualifications were stolen, his money, bags and wallet (he came for a job interview) all the way from Johor, he sounded educated and was fluent in English although he was a Malay guy clad in shorts and walked around barefooted. All he had on him were his shoes and a police report.

Rule number one in ReachOut was to never ever give money while feeding the homeless because you'll never know it they would really put it to good use so we were contemplating. After 10 minutes they decided that we'll get him a bus ticket back, so we donated RM 1 each to help buy him a ticket home. He was tearing and was very thankful. Imagine what RM 1 could do to help another person.

Then we also met a couple of interesting individuals from a lecturer to a homeless man on the streets, pregnant lady who was chased out of her home, all sorts.

The people at ReachOut visit so often that they even had names for the stray cats.

To my surprise, the stray cats recognized them immediately and ran about playing with the kids.

There were about 15 of us volunteers that night and most were from universities. I was so glad because rather than spending their time out elsewhere they were there in their sneakers and sling bags feeding cats with Friskies and whatnots. Something I learned to that night was that whether homeless or not, humans have feelings especially when it comes to food selection.

When we got there, another organization had already given them food in boxes but when we asked, some of them complained and would rather starve than eat. I was speechless yet trying to find a middle ground to understand what they were going through. So we continued our journey to the final spot, the lost city of Atlantis.

"You'll never know where this place is, nobody does," said Pete.

When we got there all I see was a dark underpass like those you'll see in zombie movies. Kechakkk attack! Anyway, I was stunned with what we saw, a lovely place with people living (duh!) but it wasn't that..it was the graffiti, the shelter, "home" that was built by the street people. If you take the monorail from Imbi - Pasar Seni - KL, you'll notice an area near Pasar Seni / Pudu where there's full of graffiti -done during a competition. But what you don't know is there's actually people living under the bridges, mattresses form a pent house. One of them actually shared that when it rains and it floods, she would move a level up (where to mattress is) and sleep.

Amazing or what. Not much graphics because it wasn't something they would like to be proud of so we tried to keep things simple. No photos or at the very least, no flash.

The clock showed almost 4am by the time we finished the food packets. It was all worthwhile and it would definitely not be our last, I'd like to invite you, any of you to join us the next time we reach out for the needy. You don't need money or old clothing, all they need is your concern to show that you can be their voice even if nobody listens to them. There is nothing to afraid of, in fact they are more afraid of us then we are of them, which is why we walk towards and approach them..and talk to them.

ReachOut is purely an online organization, apolitical and non religious based so people of all kinds can share your love to care and provide while you can. As Pete would say, "there is no Datukship or Datinship here don't expect a pat on your back or anything of that sort because you should be coming here to help the poverty stricken individuals reenter society and get back on their feet."

You can find out more information here or visit their Facebook page for upcoming events.

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