A Meal that Comforts People

Soup Kitchen is one of the long-term social service development ministry programs of the Malate parish. But due to the viral outbreak and the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine by the government, we had no choice but to stop the program.

A Meal that Comforts People

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By Kim Sunhee Sunny

Sunny is a Columban lay missionary from Korea who is presently assigned in Malate Parish.

I first met Mike (not his real name) in November 2020, while I was on my way to the office to interview candidates for the parish Soup Kitchen, a feeding program. While waiting to cross the street, he immediately caught my attention. He was sitting at the corner of the condominium building where he apparently stays and sleeps. His appearance reflected the kind of life he’s lived: gaunt face, thin body, rough hands, and feet suffering from infected wounds.

Hailing from Samar Island, Mike came to Manila with his brother to make a living after their parents passed away. He struggled to get employed, being only 15 years old at that time and unable to finish his studies. He came to Malate, where he survived by begging alms from the tourists. When the tourists stopped visiting due to the pandemic, he made a living by collecting and selling waste paper and junk. He sometimes receives products which are almost at their expiry date from nearby stores and eats them. It was a day to thank God for his providence in making me recognize Mike while waiting at the crosswalk. Anyone can tell that Mike is in need and now, he has become a beneficiary of the feeding program.

Soup Kitchen is one of the long-term social service development ministry programs of the Malate parish. But due to the viral outbreak and the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine by the government, we had no choice but to stop the program.

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When the regulations were eased slightly a few months later, the first program that the parish resumed was this Soup Kitchen. Since many people from the urban poor areas lost their means of livelihood, it was not easy for them to scrap enough money to get meals. As a result, there was an increase in the number of our beneficiaries.

We serve 100 people every day for lunch, from Monday to Sunday. Our beneficiaries are those most vulnerable: the elderly, children, the sick, and the street dwellers like Mike. The food we provide for them is not much, the dishes are not special by any means, but to some beneficiaries, these can be their first and last meal of the day. This is why I pay extra attention in the preparation.  I organize a different menu every day so that they can taste a variety of food. I buy fresh ingredients and take care in cooking as well. Most importantly, I pray for our beneficiaries to feel comforted by a warm meal during this trying time and to stay healthy.

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Mike comes to the Center for lunch every day. I expected him to immediately gain weight and improve his health through the feeding program. There is, however, no such dramatic change. More than a year later, he is still underweight and is often sick. Whenever I give him a lunch box, he always makes eye contact and expresses his gratitude, “Thank you for allowing me to eat even one proper meal a day.” It pains me to see his tired, bloodshot eyes, but his sincerity shines through them.

It is the same for others, they always say “thank you” when they receive food. At first, I felt shy to be on the receiving end of their gratitude, because I just do what I have to do. However, I realized that their simple thank yous are also meant for the other volunteers, staff, and benefactors who sponsor the feeding program so that it is able to continue.

The beneficiaries who know how to appreciate even the small things and express gratitude from their hearts prevent me from becoming numb to my daily life.  Today, I am heading to the kitchen again to prepare lunch for our beneficiaries, hoping that a meal will fill not only their physical hunger but will also satiate their spiritual needs.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food” (Matthew. 25:42)