Social Enterprise PichaEats Rebuilds Lives of Refugees
Social sustainability has often been overlooked considering how it receives the least attention in public dialogue. The concept behind social sustainability revolves around universal human rights and how basic necessities should be attainable by everyone. While many organisations are striving to develop sustainable solutions to minimise this issue, PichaEats, previously known as The Picha Project, also has one simple mission – to rebuild lives by serving great food.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Logeetha, a dear team member of PichaEats, to further understand the social enterprise and its sustainable development. She shared with us that about four years ago, co-founders of PichaEats - Kim Lim, Swee Lin, and Suzanne Ling were volunteering in a refugee learning centre. During this time, they noticed a pattern of how children were dropping out of school once they hit a certain age. It was then they saw the magnitude of the social issue, whereby refugees cannot be legally employed and their children are working alongside to earn an income for the family.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were some 149,100 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia as of June 30 this year. As the Malaysian government has not signed the Convention along with its protocol, refugees in Malaysia lack access to legal employment and formal education, and many families struggle with access to basic needs. Knowing the root cause of the problem, PichaEats was inspired to provide sustainable employment opportunities through a simple food business that can support the wellbeing of the refugees, since many refugee mothers are great cook and the fact that all of us eat.
Specialising in their homeland delicacies from Iraqi Falafel and Palestinian Hummus to Afghani Dumplings and Syrian sweets, PichaEats partners with refugees in Malaysia to cook and serve authentic cuisines, with the idea of transforming refugees into entrepreneurs. As individuals partake in the delicious meals prepared, they are simultaneously providing opportunities for refugees in Malaysia to rebuild their lives.
Speaking of the reason behind the name “Picha”, it was inspired by the youngest son of the first refugee family from Myanmar who joined the social enterprise. Back in January 2016 when the business model, marketing strategies, and other elements were being devised, Picha’s mother would provide the team with great patience and support. Logeetha mentioned that “Naming the social enterprise after 3-year-old Picha serves as a constant reminder for the team to keep the kids in school and give refugees a way to earn income sustainability and with dignity, more so to be proud of their own food.”
She strongly believes that everyone has a role to play to empower an entire community and changing mindsets of people is possible. “If you believe in sustainability, if you believe in making this world a better place, just look into your daily lives of how you can either make someone else’s life better or how you can be more conscious in your choices,” declared Logeetha. We hope that more individuals will pay attention to the urgency of the sustainability scene and their surroundings, so that little by little we can keep this alarming issue at bay. Read more about PichaEats and their ongoing efforts at www.pichaeats.com