70-Year-Old Malaysian In Canada Has Spent The Last 30 Years Of Her Life Helping The Needy

I'm not seeking popularity, but I want people to know that we Muslims are good people, too, that we do a lot, too."

Cover image via Dave Sidaway/Montreal Gazette

The world is in chaos. At a time when news of wars and hatred are at an all-time high, this elderly woman is doing her part to light up the lives of the needy.

70-year-old Sabariah Hussein has been cooking, feeding, and helping thousands of people in Montreal, Canada, for the past 30 years.

Sabariah Hussein

Image via Dave Sidaway/Montreal Gazette

News about Sabriah, or fondly known as Sister Sabria's charity work first came to light after Montreal's English daily, [Montreal Gazette](, published a piece on her journey in life.

When they visited her for an interview, the Malaysian was busy cooking up a feast for hundreds of people in churches and mosques - especially for iftar during the Ramadan month. Warm lentil soups, meatballs, and other delicious dishes are prepared by Sister Sabria and her volunteers to serve more than 300 people daily.

Sister Sabria moved to Montreal back in 1985 after marrying a French-Canadian man and that was the beginning of her charity work in the city. She had completed an international cuisine course in Kuala Lumpur before that and decided to combine her expertise and passion for charity by cooking for the less fortunate.

The determined lady's kindness does not see race, religion or sex. All she cares about is helping people in need, so she works hand in hand with groups like the River’s Edge Community Church and Unity Church in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, a neighbourhood in Montreal's west-end, to ensure that they can reach out to more people.

Sister Sabria's commitment to charity runs deep. So, when an acquaintance asked if she could find the time to meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, she had to turn it down as she was busy cooking for Ramadan.

"I was busy cooking for Ramadan and it was a last-minute arrangement. I was unable to meet Prime Minister Trudeau," she told New Straits Times (NST) disappointingly, in a recent exclusive phone interview with them.

"My regular activities involve cooking meals to serve the River's Edge Community Church, Unity Church, Anglican Church, and also provide meals to the homeless through a peace initiative in collaboration with other organisations," she added.

"In Islam, you have to be united, more than ever. That's why I want to do something good. I'm not seeking popularity, but I want people to know that we Muslims are good people, too, that we do a lot, too," she told Montreal Gazette a few months ago.

Staying true to the meaning of kindness, Sister Sabria's cooking, now, fills the tummies and warms the hearts of thousands of people weekly

She also runs a shelter, Our Second Home, in her own house, which was established back in November 2001.

Speaking to NST, Sister Sabria said that the idea to start the shelter came about after a group of foreign students asked if they could stay with her temporarily while looking for affordable accommodation. She said yes and the students who were mainly from France, Europe, and Saudi Arabia ended up staying in her house.

"For a more sustainable practice, I decided to rent a four-room apartment to allow the students to stay there temporarily. I let them stay for up to a year. The high cost of living in Canada and their low-income backgrounds saw them take longer to find affordable accommodation," she said.

Now, Our Second Home Shelter provides a safe, temporary lodging to anyone in need, including asylum seekers. Sister Sabria also runs a food bank and soup kitchen at the same place with the help of volunteers.

The generous 70-year-old's main source of income is derived from selling samosas, spring rolls, curry puffs, and other snacks at the Concordia University, McGill University, and Al-Ummah Mosque on Fridays

"I cook these savouries and snacks with volunteers. Most of them are students and they also help me to sell the snacks every week. I know my clock is ticking and I have to face Allah one day. Every day I ask myself who did I help?" she told NST.

One of the volunteers Montreal Gazette spoke to in June, Emina Velovic, said that the experience of helping out at the food bank during the Ramadan month has transformed her.

"I feel like it changes you spiritually. Because you're not only just fasting — because it's the sake of the holy month — but you feel like you have a purpose, like you're actually helping to feed others and contribute to something that's a really, really good cause," said the American girl.

Sister Sabria's generosity and kindness is further fueled by the assistance from the local Muslim community in Montreal.

"At every mosque, there is a special box for charity. When I am running short of money, I will ask from the mosque. Thank God, I have dedicated people who provide monthly contributions of around CAD100 to CAD200 (around RM342 to RM683)." she said, when speaking to NST.

Sister Sabria's love for charity began at home. Her parents always made sure they did everything in their capacity to help anyone who needed it.

Their hearts and doors were always open to people going through a tough time.

Sister Sabria's charity work extends all the way to Malaysia. She told NST that she's currently raising funds to build orphanages in Klang, Kuala Lumpur, and Kota Tinggi for Rohingya children.

"I have visited the one in Klang. It was congested, but I hope I can give these children a proper home with sufficient space to grow up in," she said.

"But even an ordinary secretary or a housewife or a teenager can, within their own small ways, turn on a small light in a dark room." - Miep Gies

Sister Sabria is the living example of that quote! <3

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