By Serene Leong
It started with putting 50 loaves of bread at the void deck for anyone who needed food, in 2020 when Covid first started.
Canteen vendor Asanul Fariq Sani, 48, tells the Pride: “(Back then), I realised that many of us were suffering. I discussed it with my wife and I said, ‘I think we still have enough to share’”.
The bread was all quickly taken up and that prompted the couple to go even further with helping the needy.
“We went around from house to house to distribute groceries and daily essentials. But it was quite slow in reaching out to those in need,” his wife Norhasyimah Awaludin, 45, adds.
So they had an idea.
Fariq says: “We decided to put our food outside our home instead. We wanted the community to come to our home so we can interact with them personally.”
That idea took root and in April this year, it officially became the Riqmah Kindness Corner outside their second floor Tampines flat.
Hasyimah explains: “They can pick and choose what they want and what is more essential to them. When we interacted with the beneficiaries, they told us what they needed. So from there we try to cater for them.”
The couple posts the items they have on Facebook so that beneficiaries know what is available.
The Riqmah Kindness Corner serves about 10 to 20 families on weekdays and 30 to 40 families on weekends.
Reaching out to other families
Fariq says: “Our policy is that if I am around, our door will always be open. Some (of the beneficiaries) would share their problems with us. They would start talking at the door and the tears would just come…”
One beneficiary who has touched their hearts is 38-year-old Nur Hidah Begum, who lives with her elderly father Syed. Previously, her father used to own a restaurant called Sinar Bahru Seafood but after multiple tragedies in the family, the business failed. Hidah herself is an accident victim who has undergone six operations on her skull since 2002.
She now comes to the Riqmah Kindness Corner once every two weeks to get groceries for her family. The father and daughter restarted Sinar Bahru Seafood as a home-based catering business in Nov 2020.
Fariq says: “When (Hidah) first came here we didn’t know who she was. During my teenage years, my mother would go to Sinar Bahru Seafood and buy food for us from her stall. I can still remember the taste of the chicken rice!”
“When she comes here for groceries, she gives back. Every time she comes, she would cook and bring food for our whole family.
“This is what I call kindness. When you do good to people, good will come back to you.”
Hidah says: “This is the first and only kindness corner that has helped me a lot. I’ve never left empty-handed whenever I come here. They really help me with all the groceries and words of strength”
“I’m very grateful,” Hidah adds. “I thank my God to have met someone like her. She’s more like a mother (to me) because I lost my mother.”
Dealing with unkindness
Not all the family’s interactions are so wholesome, however. Fariq says that they have come across people who are demanding.
“Some of these people would hoard our items,” he says. “We just need to educate them that if they take more than what they need, it can affect other families.”
Hasyimah adds that they tell their beneficiaries that the items are restocked daily.
Fariq recounts that once, the family lost about five pairs of Nike and Adidas shoes and slippers that were taken from their shoe rack.
“I was devastated because I had to go to work in smaller-sized slippers… and it was disheartening when my son called and told me he has no school shoes,” Fariq says.
But the family took the unpleasant incident in a good spirit.
“We only give groceries and daily essentials; it does not include shoes!” Hasyimah laughs.
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Setting an example
With four sons aged 12 to 19, Fariq and Hasyimah say that one of the reasons for starting the kindness corner was to pass on the passion of helping others to their children.
Fariq says: “As a parent, I believe that the values that we show will trickle down to our children. I want them to learn the importance of giving. When they see that we are stocking up cartons of groceries, my sons would come forward and help.”
He says that his sons contribute part of their school pocket money to buy groceries. And they take turns to stock up at the kindness corner when the parents are not at home.
Fariq says: “They are actively involved without any hesitation… This is what we want them to be in the future, to be our legacy.”
Fariq says that the family has invested about $10,000 on the Riqmah Kindness Corner. But they say that it is worth it because of the friendships and bonds they have built within their family and the community.
“Yes, it has affected our monthly expenditure. After we calculated, we were shocked (at the amount). But at the end of the day, if we manage to help people and bring smiles to them… I think the value is more than money.”
Fariq says: “When our story came out on the Straits Times and we went viral, people came down just to say hi, to congratulate us and to pray for us. Some even brought things to contribute.”
He admits that when they first started, he feared that they would not be able to sustain such an initiative, but he now believes that it is possible.
Fariq says: “I believe that everything you give, it will come back to you. We have been doing this from April until now and we are still surviving.”