A big-hearted woman

PETALING JAYA: Munirah Abdul Hamid (pix) juggles between meetings and is one busy woman, but amid all this she finds time for charity work.

The founder and volunteer of Pertiwi Soup Kitchen armed with a computer sits down with theSun to talk of how she got into feeding the poor and homeless.

"There is no staff, there's only me!" she laughed when showing the work schedule.

The Kedah-born Munirah recalled how she helped her mother as a five-year-old in the 1950s to prepare meals for travellers who took shelter at a mosque.

"My job was to cut banana leaves into patterns to put the cooled bubur susu (rice pudding). Mom would place slices of pisang rastali, which is rare nowadays," she said. All these were put in tiffin carriers and sent to the mosque to feed the weary travellers.

Munirah attributed her charity work to her mother.

She said her two elder sisters were among the 10 women who started the Pertubuhan Tindakan Wanita Islam Malaysia (Pertiwi) in 1967, a non-governmental organisation meant to improve the livelihood of women, teenagers and children through education.

Munirah said she assisted her sisters with handling cases that came to them and it was in 2005 that she finally brought up the topic of soup kitchen which was mooted by her dear late friend, Saadah Din.

She submitted the soup kitchen proposal to some ministers but none seemed interested.

Munirah, through her sister's contact, managed to secure a small truck sponsored by the Rotary Club of Kuala Lumpur DiRaja and the Rotary Club Phuket for her to start a mobile soup kitchen.

She admitted feeling daunted with the responsibility after the project was launched in 2010 at Dataran DBKL.

"For me, it became a serious undertaking to make sure the project is sustainable and there is transparency in our work," she said.

She said people were a bit apprehensive whether it contained beef and it was halal for Muslims.

"Eventually the poor and homeless accepted the food we served. Through word of mouth, young volunteers began to roll up their sleeves, assisting her at their first pit stop near Tune Hotel along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman with only 10 people," said Munirah, 65, adding that she felt great satisfaction in what she does and happy to see people eat and be contended.

She would prepare a menu two days in advance with five different cooks and the prepared food is delivered to her home to ensure it is still warm when handed out together with drinks.

"Once the work is completed, I'd wash the vehicles with them even if it is after midnight," the mother of two and grandmother of three said.

Using WhatsApp, she is able to coordinate with her team on their duties.

"It's easier when there's only one person who decides," she smiled.