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This Malaysian Quit His Corporate Job To Help Local Marginalised Communities

Through his new position of Operations Director at an NGO called Kechara Soup Kitchen, Justin Cheah helps the homeless, urban or rural poor, and Orang Asli.

Cover image via Justin Cheah (Provided to SAYS)

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Like many of us, Justin Cheah was perfectly content with his life working in the corporate field... until he started feeling like something was missing

His search for something meaningful led him to Kechara Soup Kitchen (KSK), a non-religious and not-for-profit non-governmental organisation (NGO) that has been serving marginalised communities in Malaysia for over 14 years.

Not discriminating in the help they give, KSK assists vulnerable demographics such as the homeless, urban or rural poor, and Orang Asli via their soup kitchen, food bank, and empowerment programmes.

Coming from a humble background, it was working with KSK that led Justin to realise the importance of giving

Justin handing over food to a mentally-disabled woman, who was living by the roadside.

Image via Justin Cheah (Provided to SAYS)

"The joy of giving is priceless, and nothing compares to the sense of fulfillment in seeing those helped experiencing a better quality of life," shared the 46-year-old in an interview with SAYS.

Justin's journey with KSK began back in 2007, when the organisation had yet to be established as a registered NGO. Despite operating with only a handful of people, KSK was already doing a lot to help marginalised communities. This piqued Justin's interest, which made up sign up as a volunteer.

"I was very intrigued with the work they were already doing and I wanted to be a part of that. I also felt that it was very meaningful to spend my weekends benefitting the poor instead of just spending time meaninglessly. I believed in the work that they did and became even more inspired after getting to know more about them, especially their vision," he said.

A year later, when the KSK team wanted to ramp up their efforts and needed someone to run their operations to help more destitute Malaysians, it was Justin they turned to

Transitioning from weekend volunteer to Operations Director would mean giving up his corporate job, a decision he made without thinking twice.

"It was quite worrying initially as I was worried whether my mum would object, but she was very supportive towards my decision to leave my job and join a charitable organisation," Justin explained.

Working in an NGO was vastly different from his previous job, as he found that they had to start everything from scratch. Plus, it was also difficult to generate income to support the operations and activities. They were also constantly shorthanded. As a result, they had to literally do everything required to support their on-ground work and had very little time to rest.

Justin at KSK's old food bank store.

Image via Justin Cheah (Provided to SAYS)

KSK has come a long way since then — from working out of a 200 square foot office to now running operations throughout Malaysia

Giving credit where it's due, Justin thanked those who have helped KSK along the way, "I am forever grateful to all the kind people who have come forward to provide help and support, and am glad we have a wonderful team running the daily operations for the benefit of the marginalised."

Over the years of helping people, Justin has experienced many incidents that touched his heart, two of which he recalls with particular fondness

Justin giving food to the homeless in Anjung Singgah.

Image via Justin Cheah (Provided to SAYS)

Recalling the first story, in which someone he helped came back to seek him out, Justin shared, "I helped a gentleman to find a job in a fast food restaurant. It was just something routine. I got a shock when he came back to meet me (I hardly recognised him as he looked totally different) and got me two boxes of pizzas as a thank you gesture. He even got some money to take a motorcycle loan and is currently rebuilding his life."

As for the second story, it involves helping a woman reunite with her long lost sister. Based on information found online, it was believed that the sister in question was living a very sorry life in Chow Kit. She was reportedly pregnant and was often seen sitting at a particular shop lot, looking dirty with rubbish next to her.

After spending three hours trying their luck looking around the area, Justin and the woman were just about to give up when they actually found her sister!

"The sister is suffering from mental disability and refused attention. We got almost everyone involved, including hospital staff and police. Finally, we managed to convince her to get herself treated at the hospital and to then return home with her very much relieved sister. She has since given birth to a beautiful child, and is now safely living in a shelter," Justin explained.

KSK hopes to continue growing, so that they will be able to reach out to more and more Malaysians in need.

And you can help them do so!

According to Justin, one of KSK's goals for the future is to be able to operate from a warehouse unit that functions as a one stop centre, where all three of the organisation's main programmes can be run at the same place.

This location will be a hub for them to channel supplies to those in need, be it in urban or rural areas. Plus, the general public will also be able to drop by to contribute their resources and time.

To make this a reality, KSK definitely needs more support to carry on with what they are doing. Those who are interested in helping out can check out the organisation's website for more details.

All this month, SAYS will be featuring inspiring stories of extraordinary Malaysian changemakers in collaboration with Wiki Impact

Wiki Impact is an online platform dedicated to the impact industry. They share stories and data on issues that matter, highlighting impact-driven organisations and change-makers on the ground. Categories include poverty alleviation, social justice, gender equality, healthcare and education for all, environmental sustainability, animal welfare, impact influencers, and more!

Find out more here.

Image via SAYS

Read more stories from the amazing Malaysians who are being featured as part of Impact 100: