Impact Stories from Ubuntu
2 April 2015 - Tricia Francis

Ubuntu is a VIP Impact Project working to create awareness about homelessness through engagement with and empowerment of the homeless.The homeless are regularly stigmatized and with few opportunities for shelter and income, their self-esteem is affected, resulting in health or mental health issues. Helping the homeless must extend beyond food provision, as this vulnerable community is in need of holistic support in addressing their underlying social necessities.


Here the team share some of the reflections they have had over the past three months working on the project.


India: “An experience last Thursday made me realized that my Ubuntu teammates and I have already begun to be accepted in KL’s street community. Jane and I went to do community outreach at a local soup kitchen as we have in previous weeks, and as we sat down on the curb to wait for the food distribution set up to begin, people gradually began to sit down beside us, either to chat, or just to wait alongside us. I looked around and suddenly realized that seated on all sides were people we’ve interacted with in some manner during our time here – even if only with a passing smile – and that obviously they were now comfortable enough with us to want to sit with and interact with us casually. This gave me a good feeling and reassurance that my involvement with KL’s street community has not gone unnoticed and that even if only as a consistent presence, I am making my mark in the lives of some of the individuals in it.”


Jane: “I’ve been working with a guy for the past week who says he wants to go to rehab. Though he says he’s an alcoholic and wants help, he still is ambivalent about going. I decided to ask him if it was okay if we thought about the pros and cons of going to rehab. With only a pen and no paper, I decided to write his reasons on my hands. When we were done discussing the reasons he listed, he told me he understood why he had to go. As he bid me farewell till our next meeting, he told me “I am sorry I dirtied your hands.” I could only smile because I knew this was just part of my work.”


Zul: “Spoke to a homeless guy at a soup kitchen just now. He is in his early 50s. A Chinese uncle who happen to be my alumni from high school. We sang school anthem together. And we laughed.. and later I found out he was graduated from Kansas University, USA. WOW!

Something that public needs to know, homeless people ARE NOT EQUIVALENT to beggars or hopeless, uneducated people. We never know what lies ahead of us. You could have the best education the world can see but the future is unknown til the time tells you. And I’m happy I got his mobile number. Thank you Uncle Rao. I’ll speak to you again sometime next week. Until then…”


Jane: “Back home I was a social worker with an organization that worked with the homeless of Houston so I thought I would be prepared for my experiences here. One of the main differences that I have noticed is the amount of children with their mothers getting food from the soup kitchens. Though I’m told that most of the kids probably do not live on the streets but in a small apartment with a LOT of people, it is still difficult to process. NO ONE chooses to be homeless especially children. So every time I look at a small smiling face, it’s a constant reminder of why I do what I do and why I am here in KL. “


Zul: “So last night my new colleagues and I had the chance to taste the flavour of doing our first out reach program with the homeless community around KL. It was something truly inspiring seeing people from all walks of life came hand in hand giving support with the soup kitchens distributing meals to the needy. Locals ( a good mixture of Mly, Chi and Ind) angmoh, not angmoh were all there working tirelessly till almost 3 in the morning. Without complaining, they do this every night! And it changed my perspective towards the ‘gelandangan’ that not all are beggars and in sad looking. I honestly admit that quite a number were in better set with pressed outfit than how I dress everyday (no shame). Our locals mentality have been stigmatized with all sorts of negative views and that’s what I’m looking forward to change now. This is certainly just the beginning. May I have the strength and courage to make the changes I wanna make.”