Bella Awards nominee Datuk Ruby Khong tells Nadia Badarudin about the enriching aspect of charity work
KECHARA Soup Kitchen is synonymous with providing food and basic necessities to the urban poor and homeless, especially in the Klang Valley, since 2006.
Its president, Datuk Ruby Khong, is one of five Bella Heart Award 2013 nominees. The Bella Awards is the country’s first women’s awards show that recognises their contributions to society.
Ruby was also listed in Forbes Asia’s Heroes Of Philanthropy 2010.
KECHARA SOUP KITCHEN
This is one of the 13 departments under the Kechara Buddhist Organisation founded by Tsem Tulku Rinpoche of Gaden Shartse Monastery.
Tsem Rinpoche, Ruby’s spiritual guide, makes the ancient wisdom of Buddha’s teachings available to practitioners in Malaysia and the surrounding regions.
The idea to set up Kechara Soup Kitchen was inspired by Tsem Rinpoche, who was homeless during his teenaged years.
“I’ve had a very privileged upbringing as well as marriage. After a while, I felt a void in my life.
“I felt empty without knowing what was wrong. Tsem Rinpoche encouraged me to feed the homeless.
Ruby says: “I was reluctant in the beginning, but I gave it a shot. And when I saw happy faces among the underprivileged and homeless, it brought new meaning into my life.”
Together with other students of Tsem Rinpoche, she started going around Bukit Bintang on Saturday nights, serving mamak food to the homeless and urban poor.
“Mamak food is halal, so we can feed everyone,” she explains.
The number of volunteers grew and Kechara Soup Kitchen was registered as a non-profit organisation (NGO) in 2008.
“Giving food to the poor is just the first step. Our ultimate aim is to get them off the streets. We decided to get our own premises so that we could do more to serve them,” she says.
The shoplot in Jalan Barat, off Jalan Imbi, acts as a one-stop centre that offers food, counselling, medical aid and job placement, among others.
From Monday to Friday vegetarian food is prepared to feed 150 people, including senior citizens in a squatter area in Kampung Bellamy.
On Saturday nights, volunteers make midnight rounds to distribute food to 650 people in Chow Kit, Sentul, Brickfields, Masjid Jamek, Jalan Tun Perak and Puduraya.
“We also chat with them and make their day. Most of the time, it’s not about food or money, it’s also about boosting self-esteem,” says Ruby, whose daughters, Elena and Elisa, also chips in to help run Kechara Soup Kitchen.
Kechara also feeds the underprivileged in Penang, Ipoh, Malacca, Kuantan and Johor Baru. In Jakarta, Yayasan Kechara Indonesia feeds poor families living near a cemetery as well as sponsor 50 youth from the area to take up vocational courses.
Ruby admits that charity work requires hard work, but it is worth the while. “It’s rewarding when someone on the street comes up to us and tells us we have given him food. It’s our reward when someone is no longer on the streets,” says Ruby, adding that we live in a society that focuses on the destination, not the journey.
“We became too self-absorbed or too self-focused and we forget about people who may need help. So do as much as you can for others. Don’t wait for the perfect time to do charity work because there is never a perfect time.
“Doing charity is not only for the rich. You can contribute time, effort or expertise. And if you can’t help 10 people, help one. It may be a colleague who is having a bad day and needs someone to talk to. That’s charity, and it’s about being kind to people.”
Ruby credits her nomination to a dedicated team of volunteers.
“I am humbled by the little that I have done. I only started charity work about seven years ago,” she says.
Honouring successful women
BELLA Awards 2013, to be held tomorrow, is aimed at honouring successful women for their achievements and inspirational contributions to the society.
The idea for the awards derived from ntv7’s magazine style talk show, Bella, which celebrates women.
Daily, Bella features segments on topics ranging from fashion and beauty to managing finance.
The awards have five categories, namely Creative, Style, Beautiful, Business and Heart.
There is also the ultimate Bella Award. There is a special recognition for men’s contribution to women and society, with an individual to be awarded the Bella Mars Award.
Supported and endorsed by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, Bella Awards will be aired live on ntv7 from 9pm to 10.30pm.
There will also be live streaming on www.ntv7.com.my/bellaawards.