VISAKHAPATNAM — This year marks 20 years since my Mum started me off with Carl’s Kitchen. Since then I’ve grown my organisation in 10 cities around the world, helping my street friends reintegrate into society in various shapes and forms.
Yet no matter how far I travel, I keep finding myself going back to one particular country. I’ve been returning to India for the past three years in a row. The level of poverty is on a different scale compared with most cities I’ve been working in.
Together with my team here, we serve the homeless community in getting them shelter, teaching them a skill and finding ways to get them jobs in order for them to get back on their feet. It has been an arduous journey these past few years but we are determined to reach out and do all we can for our street friends. This time my mission was simple, get basic street survival essentials (like blankets, toiletries, etc.) to the poorest of the poor and set up mobile clinics to tend to their medical needs.
We were able to setup and run four mobile and stationary clinics which addressed basic health issues as well as tend and heal the wounded. One particular street friend stood out for me. Murali, who is in his 70s, had an accident last year when crossing the train tracks. When I first met him he had insects crawling out of his wound which looked really bad. It was difficult to communicate as he was initially wary of our intentions to help. Also he didn’t speak a word of Telugu. It took a bit of explaining with sign language the importance of tending to his wounds. At last he understood.
After cleaning it, and returning multiple nights to dress and apply medication it became clear how a little tender loving care went a long way. It was almost fully healed by the time I was about to move to the next city.
Another part to the whole mission was to get much needed aid to those who needed it. It was freezing at night with many barely having enough to keep warm as it was winter and would only get colder. I saw many literally shivering as they slept on sidewalks. Families, the elderly, single women and even babies. We had delivered hundreds of blessing bags through the kind generosity of many back home which carried essentials for both men and women alike.
Two stories stick out here. The first was a mute man who when I wrapped him up to keep warm had signed ‘I see you’ to which I replied ‘I see you too!’ Everyone I came across had hands clasped with the utmost gratitude. Another man immediately took his shaver out of the bag and began to shave himself as he looked like he hadn’t had a shave in years.
My heart goes out to them but I know the people in India are resilient and that my team are an amazing bunch who will continue the great work, to look out for their welfare, long after I am gone, with the greatest of love!
My team here does not have much themselves but the little they have they always share with everyone. I am reminded that if you have the ability no matter how small, it is your responsibility to empower someone else.
My journey here continues as we expand into different areas. Despite the uncertainties ahead, I know that God has a way of leading me to where I am supposed to be at the moment I am supposed to be there, to heal the wounded and warm the hearts!
CALCUTTA — There is this unassuming lane that leads to the entrance of Mother Teresa’s house, off the main road, known mostly to the street community in the area. The journey here has taken me the better part of the past decade and yet I was still very emotional leading up to it. Feelings of everything I’ve dedicated my adult life to serving the poorest of the poor were stirring within me and yet the moment I entered the room where her tomb was, I suddenly felt very calm and peaceful. There was a real sense of joy in my heart despite the brokenness I’ve carried with me here.
Meeting the Missionaries of Charity and seeing first hand the work and legacy she left behind was beautiful, to say the least. One sister was telling me to never give up the ‘Why’ to the same community we serve no matter which part of the world we are in. She said Mother used to say, “Without Joy there is no Love, and Love without Joy is not true Love.” She continued saying, “Let us have Joy in serving the people we are called to Love, for Love begins at home.” When I asked her for her name she simply said, “It is not important who I am but the impressions we leave on people..”
After breakfast that morning I was walking along the main road when a man who was begging for money approached me. I would normally not entertain beggars as I rarely hand out money back home. It took me a mere second to turn back and ask him if he was hungry to which he said yes. I took him by his hand to a nearby shop and stocked him up on whatever he wanted. The ability to be able to make decisions and choose what you want to eat is a rarity in their world and so it made my day to do that for him.
Little did I know as I was about to pay that someone was tugging my shirt from the back. I turned around to a little girl and her small brother asking for food as well! I got them both a little something before they happily went their way. The girl told her little brother to say thank you. That boy then turned to me blew a flying kiss and smiled! My heart was filled and my cup was overflowing!
Gary Conrad Liew, the founder of Street Feeders of KL shares his experiences of helping the poor in India.