It’s an 80-square-foot kitchen that barely holds three people at a time, but Jasmina has made thousands of meals, many of them aromatic Rohingya curries, there over the last year.
The cooking is a sorely needed source of income, about 2,000 Malaysian ringgit ($490) each month, for the 43-year-old mother of eight, as she is a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar who has been living in limbo in Malaysia for more than 20 years.
Jasmina, who declined to give her real name for fear of the authorities, works with Malaysia-based start-up The Picha Project, which operates just like any other catering service — except that all its chef-partners are refugees.
The young company said it has also achieved profitability — a milestone many start-ups can’t reach — and it’s delivered more than 40,000 meals from refugees’ home kitchens.
The Picha Project is trying to solve a prickly issue in Malaysia.
While there are more than 150,000 refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Southeast Asian country, they find themselves in a difficult grey area: They’re allowed in the country, but not allowed to work legally.
As a result, poverty is endemic in the refugee community, leaving many vulnerable to exploitative practices.
The financial problems that refugees face prompted an unlikely trio — Kim Lim, a musician; Suzanne Ling, a psychology graduate; and Lee Swee Lin, a finance professional — into action.
The young women — Lim is 27 while the others are 24 — decided to start the Kuala Lumpur-based company last year with the aim of creating a sustainable source of income for refugees.
The three founders told CNBC that they had observed through volunteering experiences that the children of refugees often dropped out of school because their families had trouble making ends meet.
While they had previously organized fundraisers, they realized that there were limits to charity. And, despite having no prior entrepreneurship experience, they saw a potential business.
“Malaysians all love food. Through food, we can bring the refugee community and Malaysians together and, at the same time, help them to earn an income,” said Ling.
Their bet has paid off as their fellow countrymen have responded warmly to the company’s unusual food offerings.
Source: cnbc china
Rohingya curries and Syrian sweets from refugees are making start-up a hit