We Love How This Cafe In KL Lets You Buy Mixed Rice For The Homeless

An enterprise with a heart where customers spread the love through vouchers for meals for orphans, drug rehabilitation patients, refugees and the homeless people.

Cover image via Fong Mee‎/Charlie's Cafe

How would you like to give something back to the society?

41-year-old husband Desonny Tuzan and his 35-year-old wife Debra Leong together run a cafe called Charlie's Cafe in Jalan Bukit Desa, Taman Bukit Desa, KL enabling the people to feed the city's poor.

Charlie's Cafe lets those who can afford to buy meals for those who cannot.

Customers may pay for as many meal receipts as they wish to be posted on the "pay-it-forward" wall, to be claimed by anyone in need of a hot meal. Each meal is priced at RM5 and composed of rice or noodles with chicken or vegetables and choice of coffee, tea or Milo.

"The cost of the meal is more than RM5 and we subsidise the remainder," says Tuzan.

A Polish couple at the cafe's "Pay-it-forward" corner.

Image via Charlie's Cafe

Working as a social enterprise, the cafe sources ingredients and staff from indigenous communities in Peninsular and East Malaysia

"Charlie is a social enterprise. Our vision behind the café – we want to support the work of the indigenous people. One component of it is to buy vegetables from orang Asli. Buy from them and support their work. We will be happy to employ this group of people," says Tuzan, adding, "To plough back to the community, we ask customers to buy RM5 vouchers. Needy, homeless people…any working class people, you can take and just makan. We are not going to question them."

Children from the Manna Learning Centre for Myanmar Refugee Children in Sunway Mentari posing for a photo.

Image via The Star Online

The couple, who are from Sabah, said they want to connect those with means with those in need and at the same time, provide the second group with a meal in a comfortable environment.

They said that the response has been heartening with over 200 meals paid forward since the start of the initiative in July this year.

Myanmar refugee children from Manna Learning Centre in Sunway Mentari enjoy a meal at Charlie’s Cafe.

Image via Robin Augustin/TMI

Recently, 34 children from the Manna Learning Centre for Myanmar Refugee Children in Sunway Mentari enjoyed a meal at the cafe. Most of the paid meals were taken up by charity homes and rehabilitation centres, but Desonny said there were also walk-ins.

"Not all who walk in are homeless or poor, there are many in the working class who are struggling to make ends meet. These people also need to eat so when they come in here and take a paid forward receipt, we understand and we don't ask questions,” he said. He and his wife believed there were few, if any at all, who would take advantage of kindness meant for those in genuine need.

They also hope to see other eateries adopt similar methods to help feed the hungry.

It was opened on 19 May this year with the intention of starting an enterprise that can impact communities, especially the indigenous people. "We wanted to make a difference!" said Desonny.

One way was through “Pay It Forward”, a concept Desonny, who has 20 years experience in the food and beverage industry, wanted to try.

“The inspiration came from a viral video on Facebook which we saw a while ago,” he said.

The response from the public to the “Pay It Forward” campaign has been overwhelming. “We had people all the way from Singapore asking about it,” he said.

With money raised from the campaign, Desonny has invited orphaned kids, drug rehabilitation patients, and refugee children to dine at the cafe. In fact, the love that Charlie's Cafe is spreading has even affected a customer, writes Philip Golingai for The Star.

He brought a homeless Sabahan he had met in Central Market in Kuala Lumpur for lunch at the cafe. Desonny was shocked as he had not expected that people would bring the homeless to his cafe for food. “I offered him nasi lemak but he declined and only asked for rice and fried chicken,” he said, adding that he hoped more would bring homeless people to the cafe.

The cafe operation is a family affair. Desonny and Debra are helped by their children – Ezekiel, 13, Althea, 10, Sofea, six, and Daniella, a 19-month-old. “Daniella entertains the customers with her cuteness,” he said.

Desonny’s vision for Charlie’s Cafe is for it to “grow to hundreds of outlets in Malaysia” as he wants to serve “awesome Malaysian food”. “We want outlets where Malaysians from all walk of life can sit down and share a meal together with friends and families, just like in east Malaysia,” he said.

Steven Aroki and his friend Joanne Oo taking a welfie at Charlie’s Cafe. At the foreground are Desonny, Debra and kids.

Image via The Star Online

Charlie's Cafe is open from 7.45am to 9.30pm daily except Sunday

29, Jalan Bukit Desa 5, Taman Bukit Desa, 58100 Kuala Lumpur.

It's pork-free. For enquiry, you can call at this number: +6012 816 0003.


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