“It started with a single packet.”
Tony explains how, over 10 years back, he began on the path that lead to him feeding 2500-3000 people every day.
“My wife and I gave rice and vegetable to a few people. But they never took the vegetables. We asked why and were told, ‘we have no way to cook it.’
So we started cooking!
Willing Hearts does its food prep at a unit of an industrial complex on Genting Lane. There’s public transport to the building but it’s not exactly easy to get to.
Yesterday there were over 90 people who showed up on account of a large group of St. Andrew’s students volunteering. Today there are only about 25: there was a heavy thunder storm in the morning with fallen trees and “ponding”. Even many of the regulars are late.
A board against one wall lists all the orders for the day. They deliver to over 20 locations. Tony’s contacts at each distribution point SMS’s him the day before to let him know how many packages they need and if there are any special orders.
“Here’s a typical example: 75 packages – 2 with gout so no seafood.”
“Wow. It must be hard to cater for special orders on top of all this.”
He looks back and smiles.
“But everyone needs to eat. You do what needs to be done.”
Tony is in by 5:30 in the morning, listing the orders on the board and sorting out the special requests. As each order is filled throughout the morning, the board will get wiped off.
When the orders are put together, volunteers, using their own vehicles, will send them to the distribution point – mostly void decks in some of the poorer estates.
“Here’s another one: We need 25 packs for the maids.”
“Maids? Why are you feeding maids?!”
“These women have been rescued from abusive situations. They are being cared for before going home.”
By mid morning, Tony is drenched in sweat. The whole process is physical and he’s very hands-on. He’s not a tai-chi kind of captain.
Although there is a bit of a mad rush to get the food out quickly, he remains calm. He’s equanimity personified.
When the final food packs are boxed up, Tony takes the time to chat a bit and tell his story. He is warm and attentive. But there’s more: he’s very… grounded. He has the calm assurance of someone who knows his purpose in this life.
He believes it is possible that individuals can make things better.
“If everyone did this, the world would be a very happy place.”
Volunteering there is super chin-chai: just show up and someone will say “do this” or “do that” and you will be on the job. No need to make arrangements in advance to come down: just show up. 7 days a week. Noobs aim to get there at 7:30am or so when the packaging is in full swing.
Just be sure to wear clothes you don’t mind getting food smells. You can also wear an apron.