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Former Tour Guide Who Lost Her Job During The Pandemic Now Feeds The Poor And Homeless

Since 2019, the global pandemic has left many Malaysians in dire situations. Jobs were lost, businesses were shut, and the rakyat was left to fend for themselves. Over 700,000 Malaysians were unemployed, others had to take involuntary pay cuts and many took on multiple jobs to make ends meet[1].

We also saw the crumble of numerous industries – particularly the tourism industry because of recurring lockdowns and travel restrictions both globally and locally. Those working in the airline industry were laid off, hotels shuttered, airports became ghost towns and tour guides took a direct hit. 

Such is the story of former tour guide, Cyndi Yong. For two decades, she was a licensed tourist guide serving tourists from all around the world. But the pandemic snatched her career away in an instant. Having been without a job since 2020, this single mother had to think of new ways to survive.

A Moment Of Kindness Changed Her Life 

Source: CM

Cyndi ploughed through many low points during the pandemic and the financial crisis was an added burden to bear. Malaysia recorded over 235,000 single mothers – and many of them share the same financial concern of providing for their families[2].

As for Cyndi, she had a 9-year-old to care for when she lost her job. For many months, she was digging into her savings to tide through.

But Cyndi recalls a time when a stranger fed her. Hungry and with only RM5 on her, Cyndi could not even afford a bowl of noodles. But the operator of a beef noodle stall gave her two bowls of noodles, one for her and another for her daughter, Latreia and refused payment[3].

Surprised and overwhelmed, Cyndi experienced a life-changing moment. She realised that there are others who have it worse than her. Many don’t even have RM5 to spare, and wouldn’t be welcomed at coffee shops.

There are so many people on the streets with nowhere to go. I still have a place to sleep at night, but what about them? It opened my eyes to see that there is so much suffering but do people actually think about it? – Cyndi Yong[3]

Repaying Kindness With More Generous Giving

Going all in, Cyndi sought the assistance of a coffee shop owner in his 70s to utilise his space.

I asked him if it would be okay to use his shop as a place where the homeless, handicapped, elderly, and jobless can sit down, enjoy a good meal, and rest. – Cyndi Yong[3]

After getting the word out, funds were raised and just a week later, she welcomed and fed 40 poverty-stricken people. Simple and warm food filled their tummies.

This was the start of Petaling Street Community Care(PSCC). Cyndi found purpose and joy in giving to others because she was once in their position – desperate and hungry. Today, PSCC feeds the homeless and hungry at least thrice a week.

If I have more funds, I will do it five or six times a week. – Cyndi Yong[3]

While Cyndi’s financial situation is not completely out of the red, she is determined to keep giving. In fact, she goes around in her ‘food truck’- her trust car and distributes food to the destitute in Petaling Street, Chow Kit, Pudu and Brickfields. Going the extra mile, Cyndi would also provide additional necessities such as blankets, clothing and crackers when the need arises.

When I go around at night and I see them covering themselves with the blanket, it’s very heartwarming. – Cyndi Yong[3]

Source: FMT

She also believes in modelling generosity, especially to her daughter Latreia. Virtues such as compassion and giving must be caught, not just taught.

That’s why I always encourage Latreia to serve in the streets with me so that she can practise compassion from a young age. I believe no matter how rich and successful a person may be, it’s of no real value without compassion. – Cyndi Yong[4]

Transforming Lives In Ways Unknown

Having experienced the same predicament as those she is helping now, Cyndi or fondly known as ‘Mummy Cyndi’ at PSCC, makes every effort to know the people she is serving. Their identity is not just about the issues they are facing. She takes time to talk with the people and understand their stories.

Through the simplest of acts, she recalls the story of Raj, a homeless ex-convict. Raj was among those who came by the coffee shop for a meal. Realising the language barrier that stood between them, she sought the help of a friend to translate. Cyndi and Raj had a lengthy conversation and then he left.

Cyndi and Raj. Source: CM

Months later, Cyndi heard calls from afar. “Amma, Amma”, meaning mother in Tamil. It was Raj. He told Cyndi that the conversation they had made him feel heard and valued. He went away with resolute confidence that life can be better despite his past[4].

Join Cyndi In Her Mission To Feed The Hungry

Cyndi’s story is an inspiration of what one act of kindness can do for a person. Cyndi continues to work hard to bring up her family and at the same time, she is determined to keep PSCC afloat. To sustain PSCC, she relies on public donations and is hopeful that Malaysians will support the cause. 

PSCC also welcomes volunteers and you can join Cyndi in one of the food distribution activities. If you have been challenged and moved to activate your generosity, get in touch with PSCC and find out how you can help.

Explore Our Sources:

  1. The Edge Markets. (2022). Malaysia’s jobless rate in 4Q21 fell to lowest since Covid-19, says DOSM. Link.
  2. New Straits Times. (2021). Rising number of single mothers a big concern. Link.
  3. FMT. (2021). Out-of-work tourist guide finds hope by helping others. Link.
  4. CM. (2022). A Community for the Marginalised: The Remarkable Story of Petaling Street Community Care. Link.

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