Stories from PSCC
This is an ongoing collection of stories and reflections by our very own volunteers.
We invite you to hear our stories
My Month with Pit Stop
by Cadence Hui, Regular Volunteer
My month spent interning at Pit Stop brought me closer to the lives of our street friends: the daily exchange of smiles and greetings not only allowed me to make heart-to-heart connections but this eventually led to the construction of meaningful relationships.
One rewarding experience I certainly won't forget was helping out with Pit Stop’s job applications process. It all started with Joyce telling Jane (who was also an intern) and I that there were vacancies at a manufacturing company that manufactured car accessories and that the company decided to search for candidates among our street clients. We spread the word then arranged an interview session during the dinner service to select up to 15 candidates for another round of interview by the company representatives the next day.
Sitting at the interview table, I saw many keen faces. Their great earnestness in replying to my simple questions - "Bang pernah kerja kat mana sebelum ini?" "Selain itu, bang pernah kerja sebagai apa lagi?" - affected me greatly, leaving me enthusiastic and compelled to get them approved for the job that appeared as if their whole life depended on it. In fact, their whole life did depend on it.
Coming along was a guy who looked relatively older. He was 53, 8 years older than the maximum age set by the company. I told him he was average, but then he showed that his enthusiasm was clearly above and beyond what the other candidates provided. He asserted that he was used to do factory work in his early days. With his firm gestures and gruff voice, I was convinced that he was not unlike his proclamation of being much stronger than other young men. I wrote on his application form: “Strongly recommended”. The next day, he was one of the first few to be offered the job.
Before he left for the hostel provided by the company, he held out his hand to me. I reached out, accepting his firm grip, meeting his thankful eyes, and letting his words “真的，谢谢你 (Really, thank you)” sink in. That night, I saw with my own eyes, the restlessness of our street friends as they waited for their application results; their disappointment as they were rejected; the sparkle in their eyes and their exhilaration as they cheered and celebrated their acceptance. That night, six of our street friends were sent off the streets and into new lives. Sending them off, I hid my face behind Jane and teared up. I couldn’t be any happier.
The emotional ups and downs our street friends brought me through struck me with a realization that rarely was the verdict of “lazy to work” the reason why they ended up on the streets. Had there been better options, why would they even choose to be homeless? Sadly, it is a fact many fail to understand. Instead of giving our judgments, it is often so much easier assisting them in other ways.
Honestly speaking, we don’t really have to change the world, because changing even one life can have an equally meaningful impact.
There’s a Better Way
by Guan Jin, Regular Volunteer
While watching the queue for food at Pit Stop recently, I noticed someone in the line with a copy of Frederick Forsyth’s The Cobra. It tells the story of a US President colluding with a UK Prime Minister to fight the cocaine trade. Of course it’s fiction.
“That’s a good book,” I commented to the owner. “Yes,” he responded and proceeded to talk about all the books he had read. Quite an impressive list.
This gentleman debunks our common perception about people who sleep on five-foot-ways and queue up for free food. From our ivory tower, most of us view them as failures, as people who don’t come up to much. Some of us even belittle them. Mostly, we assume they probably did not do well at school. C’mon, how could anyone even with average abilities end up in the streets?
However, this gentleman – let’s call him Mr Sam – comes across as quite knowledgeable, and obviously well-read. It is impossible to not see that he makes an effort to be presentable, too.
It is about time that we – the people in positions of authority included – come round to the fact that not all homeless people are the dregs of society, or that they are hopeless and beyond redemption.
There is no doubt that a good number of them are as capable – intellectually – as you and I. Perhaps as a result of a little error or bad luck, they have fallen. Like Mr Sam, all they need is a little support and an opportunity for them to become useful members of society again.
Indeed, several of these people have been given jobs and have successfully settled into a new life.
Rounding them up and confining them in a camp far from the city is not the answer. Worse than that, on some occasions they are simply dropped off along the highway far away from the city. Of course they will have to make the trek back to the city where they can be assured of at least one meal a day. A look at how worn out their sandals are will give you an idea of how far they have to walk.
Taking them off the streets of KL for the duration of the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games will give our visitors the impression that everyone in Malaysia is blessed with a roof over his head. However, it does not take away the fact that we have a problem, the same problem that every city has – homelessness. Just because the city officials of Rio de Janeiro took people off the streets for the duration of the Olympics last year does not mean we have to go down that route.
Instead of sitting on their haunches, our city officials should get cracking on coming up with a more comprehensive plan to address the problem. Help them but enable them to keep their dignity, too.