By KEVIN TAN
Azlan Mckechnie, 28, watched a YouTube video showing a few individuals feeding the poor and homeless people on the streets that they live in.
Little did he know that the video would not just leave a lasting impression on him but also inspire him to go out and do the same.
Azlan shared the video online, gathered a group of friends, and fast forward a few days, he and his buddies had started their own journey to help the homeless folks. And that was exactly how the Keep the Change movement began.
“The people in the video talked about how there are so many viral videos today – like Gangnam Style and Harlem Shake – and how none of them are really useful in helping people. And so I was inspired to do good and create a viral video of our own campaign,” said Azlan, who works as an IT sales manager.
Besides Azlan, Keep the Change was also founded by Nikky Khilani, 24, Nadia Sabri, 30, Sanjaya Kumaraseni, 27, and Kirana Adhika, 23.
They carried out their first project in May, for which they made and distributed egg sandwiches to homeless folks along Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur.
“There was no real plan to it, we just did it. At first, we didn’t know where to find the homeless people. (But when we found them), I was surprised by how many there are,” Azlan said.
The initial project served as wake up call to Azlan, showing him just how many people in the city are in need of a helping hand.
“You see a lot of videos online on poverty, and the homeless. But when you see it in real life, it’s different,” he said.
Vishnu Rajendran Amboo has also been volunteering to help the homeless since he was 17. He was inspired by his mother and now Vishnu runs a community movement called Soup Kitchen 101 which provides basic needs such as food to underprivileged folks. And based on his experience, Vishnu said that there still are many homeless people hidden away from society.
“You’ll be surprised at how many people are actually living under bridges, and how many families, even those with children, build their ‘homes’ out of cardboard boxes. And not too far away from them, you spot the majestic KL Tower and Twin Towers.”
Doing charity is a lifestyle
During Keep the Change’s first project, Azlan was surprised by some of the reactions he got when handing out food.
“One thing I realised about the homeless people is that they are not greedy. There were instances when we wanted to give them more food, and they said that we should give those portions to other people instead.”
Azlan added that nowadays, the word ‘charity’ is used as if it’s only for special occasions. “Our aim is to make it more regular. Even if you don’t see it published by media, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”
As their activities started to spread on social media through their Facebook page, it lead more people to join them and donate food for the good cause.
“We want to make this appeal to the youth in a modern way. It’s a feel good activity. It’s not so much about saying ‘this isn’t right’, it’s more about saying ‘this is how it should be’.”
The people behind Keep the Change kept the momentum going by giving out food (rendang and ketupat), mineral water and clothes around Pudu, Bukit Bintang, Petaling Street and Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur during Hari Raya. They had also recently visited an orphanage.
“It felt really good to be doing this – to provide for the people in need. We kept asking ourselves, ‘why didn’t we think of this earlier?’” said Nadia, who came up with the name Keep the Change.
“There was one part in the video that said ‘make the change’, but we didn’t just want to make the change, we want to keep (making) the change.”Although Keep the Change welcomes donations, they do not accept monetary support. The group of do-gooders figured that it is better to have people necessities like food items and clothes.
“We don’t take money because we’re not charity, we’re a lifestyle,” Azlan said.
It’s the little things that matter
Even as a busy young working adult in the advertising industry, Nadia said that it doesn’t take too much to help those in need. “If you can spend two hours watching a movie, you can do the same going out there to help people,” she said.
Nadia added that students have the advantage of having more time to run initiatives. “If it’s money that you’re concerned about, then you should know that we only spent RM60 for our first run (to make 65 egg sandwiches). Get friends to share the cost and you’ll only spend about RM20 or less. It really doesn’t take much.”
Vishnu realises that one of the causes many people are reluctant to help is because they do not know where to start.
“Many people actually want to help, but they don’t know how to. They usually think it’s all about money. There has to be people doing the physical work, like cooking, packing the food and distributing them. Yes, money can provide the resources but everyone can help out with different things,” he said.
Azlan believes that everyone is charitable by nature, and that everyone actually wants to help. He pointed out that Keep the Change isn’t an organisation, but more like a community or a movement.
“You don’t need to be a ‘member’ to do the same, everyone can do this. What we want to achieve is to inspire other people to do the same, just like how the video inspired me to do this,” he said.
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