BUILDING BRIDGES: Help those close to home

Reasons to give extend beyond holiday season, writes columnist Taslim Jaffer

On Friday afternoon, the two older kids and I set up a very sophisticated peanut-butter-and-jam-sandwich making system on the kitchen island.

Once the towers of sandwiches were wrapped, we piled them carefully into a cloth shopping bag. In another cloth bag, we tossed a bag of mandarin oranges and a couple boxes of cereal bars.

We were all set for the next day.

At the beginning of this year, the five of us had sat down and made a list of ways we could feed hungry people. Aside from dropping off food at the Surrey Food Bank and adding $2 to our grocery bill every week at Save-On Foods, we decided we wanted to get involved with the Interfaith Food and Clothing Ministry.

My husband and I loved the idea of supporting close to home; we have our own ‘downtown eastside’ right here in Surrey. And, of course, an interfaith group that is open to people of all backgrounds including atheist and agnostic beliefs is something we feel can only bring a community closer together.

Well, here it was, November, and we still hadn’t made it out to 135A Street in Surrey, at the corner of 106 Avenue, where the Interfaith Food and Clothing Ministry meets on the first, third and fifth Saturday of the month.

As if cramming for a final exam, we circled the date on the calendar and contacted the co-ordinator, Arun Chatterjee, by email. He encouraged us to bring dry pre-packaged foods for ease of delivering.

When we arrived at the meeting area, I expected to see… well, a whole committee of people packing their foods in the brown bags that Arun was providing. But it was just Arun and his children – though I was happy to hear that roughly 15 to 20 families are involved in the program, and they have even had support from local businesses that provide food.

Arun and his family have not missed a delivery day in the five years since they started this program – an idea that came to him and his wife out of the simple desire to serve others.

His children have literally grown up visiting the streets, thoughtfully shopping for and packaging meals for the hungry. They happily got my kids involved in bagging and soon we were a real team, mostly run by the children.

Once all the brown bags were full of sandwiches, samosas, granola bars, mandarins, chips and juice boxes, our two families walked over to where people were sitting or lying down near their few possessions.

Some walked up to us with grateful smiles, looked at my kids and expressed their thanks.

We weren’t the only ones delivering food. Someone was serving a hot Indian meal from the back of their truck, while others handed out water bottles as they walked around.

It was moving and even sacred.

I am telling you about this for many reasons. Just a gentle reminder that social issues permeate our own backyard. Also, that people are hungry all year ‘round, so while the Christmas season brings out the best of us, we must remember that the rest of the year needs our hearts, too.

And, finally, I am inspired out of my mind by a South Surrey husband-and-wife team who, along with their compassionate children, decided to take action where they saw a problem. And their action involves bringing together a diverse community of people – the people of Surrey – to show us that our differences don’t matter when people’s bellies are empty.

Arun beautifully describes this ministry as, “a place to stand beside the most vulnerable and marginalized people of our own community. A place to have a chat with them and share each other’s story. A place to experience our own vulnerability, fear and judgments and gradual freedom from them. A place to discover our collective humanity one Saturday at a time. A place to let your spirit unfold and get inspired to follow your own calling.”

Homelessness and poverty are greater issues that cannot be solved by handing out food. I recognize this.

And I hope that in 2017, I can move beyond ‘Band-Aid’ solutions and lobby for long-term support.

In the meantime, I was raised to never let someone go hungry if I could help it.

And through this ministry’s effort, I may be able to pass down that teaching to my own kids.

If you would like to learn more about the Interfaith Food and Clothing Ministry, please email Arun at arunavc@hotmail.com

Columnist Taslim Jaffer writes monthly on multicultural connections.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This Crescent Beach home, located at 12505 22 Ave., was subject of a police search warrant June 18. (Google image)
Civil Forfeiture Office alleges Crescent Beach home used to launder money

Court documents request the home, and $85,000 to be turned over to the government

Surrey firefighters battle a house fire near the 70A Avenue and 126A Street intersection early Sunday morning. According to a witness, it appears that the occupants were able to get out without injury. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Fire causes extensive damage to Surrey home

Occupants able to escape without injury: witness

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

An animated Gordie Hogg introduces his 'Community Connections' videos. (YouTube screenshot)
Community Connections: Gordie Hogg speaks with Glenn Rose

Former mayor, MP began posting conversations on YouTube in June

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Most Read