SINGAPORE – After their school canteen stall was closed during the circuit breaker last year, Mr Asanul Fariq Sani and his wife Norhasyimah Awaludin decided to spend their time hand-delivering groceries to a few homes when they heard about some families that were struggling to put food on the table.
During one of their visits, Madam Norhasyimah opened a cupboard to put away the groceries they had brought, only to see just one pack of instant noodles on the shelf.
“That’s when we knew we wanted to do something more to help those who don’t have enough to eat,” the 45-year-old said.
Mr Fariq and his wife set up tables and shelves outside their home in Block 268 Tampines Street 21 that stocked items like instant noodles, canned food and biscuits.
People came from all across the island, said Madam Norhasyimah.
For the care they have shown to their community, Mr Fariq and Madam Norhasyimah have been nominated for The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award.
They started their initiative during Ramadan in April with what they thought would be a month’s supply. It ran out in three days. Each day, 30 to 40 families would come, looking for food.
“We started taking items from our own kitchen to give out to those who came,” said Mr Fariq, 48.
His wife added: “We were overwhelmed, but with joy. When we saw things running out, we knew it meant that we had reached our targeted audience.”
Their project gained traction online and they started receiving regular visitors to their corner.
“Over time we formed meaningful friendships with people, who contact me directly on WhatsApp with what they need and we try to help,” he said. This extends to delivering groceries to people who have mobility issues.
Besides paying out of their own pocket, the family also accepts grocery donations from the community.
The couple’s four sons help out at the corner whenever they can, replenishing the items and taking care of the visitors when their parents are at their canteen stall.
“They even put together a big sum from their own savings to contribute to the corner. It showed us that they sincerely wanted to be part of the initiative,” Madam Norhasyimah said.
The boys, aged 12 to 19, made beaded mask extenders recently to put at the corner for beneficiaries.
Mr Fariq said that the biggest sacrifice for the family was time. “I have to sacrifice time with my family and with my children to keep this running every day,” he said.
When asked what has kept them going, they tearfully recalled advice from Mr Fariq’s late father, who died on Oct 6. It was the only time the corner was closed, so the family could mourn.
“He told me to give back to society, no matter how hard it gets, or how small the token is,” said Mr Fariq.
Madam Norhasyimah said: “His words stuck with us and it made us come back stronger.”.
She said that after The Straits Times wrote about them in August, a few friends reached out for advice on how to start their own small kindness corners.
“The ripple effect of kindness is amazing,” she said.
“When I lay my head on my pillow at night, I am happy that we got to make sure a family has enough food for the next day.”
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