Saturday, August 15, 2015

Breakfast on Us: Lawyer's free-food-for-all initiative catching on fast

PETALING JAYA: “Breakfast on Us” is an initiative by a group of volunteers to promote unity and this includes providing free food to the public. Originating from Kuantan, the group has Malaysians mingling and sharing a meal on mats every weekend.

Project leader Datuk Syed Azimal Amir, 50, said the goal was to bring Malaysians of different backgrounds together in conjunction with Merdeka.

“I want people to get together and have a good time without any political or racial intentions,” said the lawyer.

He said the response was good, with more than 200 people attending the first event at a park in Taman Gelora, Kuantan.

People were surprised that there was free food and at first thought that there was a catch, he said.

“Some thought that we were giving out free food on behalf of a political party.

“When they asked who organised it, we said it was done by the people for the people,” Syed Azimal said.

He explained that the idea for the event came from a programme that he ran earlier, called “Food for Ramadan”, where free food was handed out to the public.

“We then thought – why not expand the project since response was good and turn it into something that promotes unity,” he said.

The group supplied the food from donations and cash given by friends and family. “It feels good to give back to the community and let us get to know the people of Kuantan from all races and backgrounds,” Syed Azimal said.

Intan Norlizan Mohd Nordin, who runs a business, volunteered because it was for a good cause.

“It felt really nice to be able to help and I got to work with volunteers from different races as well,” said the 63-year-old.

The project has inspired Malaysians in other states to start similar initiatives.

Lawyer Salmiah Salim, 33, organised similar events in Selangor and Sabah after reading about Syed Azimal’s project on Facebook.

“He inspired me. I thought that it was a good concept, so I decided to do it, too,” she said.

She hoped her event would also boost harmony among Malaysians.

“We need each other. If we are racist, we won’t go anywhere as a nation,” she said.

Salmiah said her project received good response.

Salmiah said she encouraged people to contribute by helping to distribute the food instead of just donating money or items.

“We want them to come meet different people and experience the feeling of unity,” she explained.

Meanwhile, the group behind Project JomKawan will take things to the next level by encouraging Malaysians to pledge for unity.

Volunteers Unite co-founder Lydia May Wong, 32, said that under the second phase of the project, they wanted to collect at least 5,000 pledges.

Named “Threads of Unity”, this Merdeka art piece will be formed from colourful lengths of yarn cut by Malaysians as a pledge to always place unity above any issue.

Project JomKawan (or “Let’s Be Friends” in colloquial Malay) had volunteers inviting Malaysians at random to tell why they love the country, over a meal of nasi lemak and a game of congkak.

*Taken from

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