KL-based social enterprise PichaEats turns refugees into entrepreneurs this Ramadan

PichaEats, a Kuala Lumpur-based social enterprise which partners refugees in Malaysia in a catering and delivery business, has launched a video to shed light on how the simple act of enjoying a meal could change lives. The company was formerly known as The Picha Project and offers refugee families who were forced to flee to Malaysia a chance to rebuild their lives by selling food from their motherlands to Malaysians.

The video, which was launched ahead of Ramadan, was conceptualised by social marketing agency GOODSTUPH in a pro-bono partnership with Reel Loco Productions and Song Zu Singapore. It aims to deliver stunning cinematic #foodporn against the harsh realities of life as a refugee by featuring the true story of Syrian refugee and Picha chef, Rania. The narrative of her family’s escape from war-torn Raqqa and the tragedies that accompany it, runs parallel with the preparation of her signature Fattet Magdoos, a traditional stuffed eggplant casserole dish served with fried Arabic bread.
As of December 2018, there are more than 160,000 refugees and asylum seekers registered with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, in Malaysia. However, as Malaysia is not part of the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention, refugees in Malaysia lack access to legal employment and formal education. As such, Picha chefs view food as not just a feast for the eyes but a matter of survival. To date, Picha has empowered more than 20 families from Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Pakistan to build sustainable livelihoods.

In a statement to A+M, co-founder of PichaEats Suzanne Ling said the social enterprise started with one simple mission which was to rebuild lives through food. Its solutions focus on empowerment through access to sustainable employment opportunities through a simple food business that connects people. She added that while the awareness of PichaEats has been growing in relation to the food orders since day one, there is room to grow.
“Food is a social currency we can all relate to, regardless of race, nationality or religion. With this video launched in during the Ramadan people, we hope that we can raise awareness for the greater public, and ultimately, to have them allow PichaEats to put food on their tables so that refugees can put food on their own tables,” Ling said.

The company mainly focuses on social media to build a strong Picha community online who will eventually become ambassadors of PichaEats, marketing what the social enterprise offers to its network. The team produces daily content on social media that adds value to clients and works on interactive content to build relationships with its online community, Ling said.

She added that it is looking to collaborate with SMEs and MNCs in Malaysia for more visibility. “One of our dream collaboration is to have is with any airline, where we can have some of our products listed or served in-flight,” Ling added.
Meanwhile, founder of GOODSTUPH Pat Law said Ramadan is a key period for PichaEats to promote refugees such as Dalia and their catering services. Law said she met Ling last year as a result of #sundayswithpat, a casual coffee session she holds at the cafe Penny University. She also had the opportunity to meet Dalia and found the experience to be “humbling”.

“I told my creative team about my experience with PichaEats and meeting Dalia, and how we should help in any way we can. We try to make it a point to do one pro bono campaign a year and for this year, it is PichaEats,” Law said.