Sometimes, it’s easy to take things for granted, forgetting not everybody has the same opportunities.
Raja Kamariah, owner of Skohns Canteen in Damansara Perdana, recalled a day when a single mother brought her children over to the restaurant, to give them the rare treat of a western meal.
It was free, of course, under the suspended meal programme that Skohns runs.
“The smiles on their faces touched me,” said Kamariah.
“It’s great to see people being able to eat something that they normally cannot or wouldn’t buy for themselves,” she said. “We don’t judge anyone who wants to claim a meal. Everyone needs help at some point.”
“There are a lot of truly needy people whose stories we don’t know,” said Ramesh Vadiveloo, the owner of Frontera Sol of Mexico in Petaling Jaya. He also founded Meals For All, a charitable organisation that works with soup kitchens like Kechara Soup Kitchen to distribute food to the homeless and needy.
“One story that brought tears to my eyes was of a girl who had been raped and gave birth on the streets. She continues to be homeless. If you listen to their stories without prejudice, you will really feel the need to help where you can,” he said.
The concept of suspended meals can be traced back about 100 years, when the people of Naples started practising something called caffe sospeso, or “suspended coffee”, where people paid for an extra coffee, to be collected by those in need.
The concept of suspended meals has spread around the world, including to Pakistan, Singapore, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and now, Malaysia.
“For the homeless in places where the weather can get really cold, a hot cup of coffee means a lot,” said Gerald Goh, whose restaurant, Absolute Tribal, used to distribute food to the needy in Kuching. “But coffee doesn’t do wonders here, so we offer food instead!” he added with a laugh.
Absolute Tribal used to collect RM10 from customers and top up another five ringgit to serve RM15 worth of food to the needy, with the help of welfare organisations.
“All I wanted to do was help where I could, and my restaurant was a platform for people who wanted to help, but didn’t know how,” Goh said.
Unfortunately, his wife’s health deteriorated and he has since sold his share of the business to focus on her health. Just as unfortunately, Absolute Tribal may no longer continue its suspended meals programme. “It was always my pet project,” said Goh. “I’m not sure if they will keep it up now that I’ve left.”
While restaurants that support the programme may come and go, what really matters are the individuals who want to make a difference. If you want to contribute to the cause, you can contact Meals For All at 012-292 8096 or email, and Skohns Canteen at 011-3700 1813.


Literature grad-turned-journalist who loves our R.AGE team karaoke nights a little too much. While her literature background has left her with a slightly twisted sense of humour, it has also given her a passion for writing on social issues.


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