From her small kitchen in Kuala Lumpur, Rania is cooking up a feast. Already, her home is filled with the tantalizing smells of Syrian food. Her biryani (spicy rice dish) and fattet magdoos (Middle Eastern casserole dish) are her best dishes – a family favorite and a big hit with her customers. The month of Ramadan has ushered in a steady stream of orders from customers.
Rania is one of the refugee mothers under the Picha Project – a social enterprise based in Malaysia that aims to empower the refugee community living in the city center through a food delivery and catering business. Day in and day out, meals are cooked in the homes of refugee families and delivered to hundreds of customers at events.
The refugee families under the project come from areas like Myanmar, Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza, Afghanistan, and Syria; joining the project has enabled them to earn a steady monthly income for basic necessities, and put their children through school. Most of the families are entirely dependent on the money earned from their cooking. For many, it’s also a great way to keep in touch with other refugee families, maintain their culture, and build a valuable support system.
For Rania, the project helped get her back on her feet. A few years ago, her husband, who was also a chef for the project, passed away unexpectedly, leaving behind a pile of hospital bills she could not afford. This was when the organizing committee of the Picha Project stepped in. The young team, led by Lim Yuet Kim and her friends, began to crowdfund for money from their customers through social media. The response was instantaneous and within days, they had collected enough money to pay off her husband’s medical bills.
“It’s been difficult trying to rebuild our lives here, but with the women from the Picha Project constantly helping us, life has been much easier. My whole family has benefited from being a part of the project,” Rania says. “I feel happy that through our traditional homecooked food, we are able to connect with Malaysians. I enjoy working with the team and when I cook, I do it with love and passion.”