The Dough's Risen In The Picha Project Kitchen

EMPOWERMENT THROUGH MEALS

The Dough's Risen In The Picha Project Kitchen

Having shown how refugee communities can make a living through the provision of ethnic meals, Picha Project is taking the social enterprise up the technology ladder. We speak to co-founder Kim Lim.

Home-grown social enterprise the Picha Project is taking baby steps up the technology ladder. Thanks to the 40 thousand Euro prize it won at the Global Allianz Future Generation Award held in Munich in August last year, it is now looking to improve its operations to take Picha Project to the next level.

It is planning to improve its operations through the setting up of a centralised kitchen facility and banking on digitalisation to incorporate new modes of distribution.

Having proven that this social enterprise that helps refugees earn a living by offering ethnic cuisine to Malaysian, one of its trio of founders – Kim Lim – tells AWANI Review that technological advances in logistics may well be the way for Picha Project to cook up a fresh culinary storm.

“Having a centralised kitchen would allow us to help more communities, not just the refugees. We really are looking forward to work with Orang Asli community and the urban poor. We know that every one of them can contribute to our economy. With a centralised facility, we will be able to look at distribution or mass production of other products,” says Lim.

Lim embarked on this mission to empower the lives of refugees back in 2016 through a food catering project.

She, and two other university friends, Lee Swee Lin and Suzanne Ling were already volunteering as teachers at a refugee school near their campus.

Most refugees struggled to even put food on the table, observes Lim at that time.

Refugees in Malaysia have no permission to work. So, providing for their families were one of the greatest challenges they face. Many resorted to working illegally, which open them up to exploitations and abuses. They are also deprived of the most basic things like healthcare and education.

“We realised the children were dropping out of school because they had to find odd jobs or ways to sustain their families.”

They key to uplift this marginalised community is through empowerment, says Lim, and that realisation led to Picha Project.

As they are putting food on your table, you are putting food on theirs

“We said, let’s try to create a business revolving assisting refugees, but we didn’t know what to start off,” says Lim. “The only thing we knew is that Malaysians love to eat, and we thought ‘Why not promote their culture through food, something they are good at?’”

Soon after its inception, Picha Project started delivering meals cooked by the different refugee communities they worked with to universities. Now, they mostly cater to corporations in the Klang Valley.

“The name Picha is actually derived from the name of our first cook’s youngest son. He had a very kind and generous spirit that we wanted to embody into the company,’ Lim explains. “So, we just name it after him, the Picha Project,” she adds with a smile. 

The trio runs Picha Project like any other food and catering business, putting emphasis on food quality, marketing and distribution.

The making of the meals is left entirely to the creativity of the refugees they work with. “We don’t usually control what they cook. These mothers that we are working with, they have their own authentic traditional recipe. We don’t alter it too much, but we try to cater it to suit Malaysians’ appetite,” says Lim.

“Malaysians truly appreciate the tastes of Syria, Palestine or Afghanistan. Those meals come with stories, and different families have different recipes,” she says, adding that the unique recipes are what make The Picha Project home-cooked meals special.

‘As they are putting food on your table, you are putting food on theirs,” says Lim of the quote that she and her partners live by in driving them to reach out to more marginalised communities. “The Picha Project helps to promote culture, peace, unity and stories through food,” she sums it up.

Here, Lim shares the story of a Syrian man named Zaza that is close to the heart of the Picha Project.