‘It’s selfless’: One family’s gift of love to Melbourne’s homeless

At Christmas, we like to talk about extending love and goodwill to others, but Cecilia Chuah and her family have walked the walk in this pandemic year.

It’s not connected to a charity or church. It’s from the goodness of their hearts that once a week, since May, they have handed out free, home-cooked meals, and goods, to the homeless at Queen Victoria Market.

Cecilia Chuah and her daughter Shanice, busy preparing about 100 meals to distribute to the homelessCredit:Eddie Jim

Ms Chuah, 48, of Brunswick, said she has befriended many of Melbourne's homeless people since she began providing the service.

On Tuesday Ms Chuah, her husband Chai Lim, daughter Shanice, 16, and cousin Alex Ung put on a special pre-Christmas effort at the market.

As usual, Ms Chuah left the family business, SSS Auto Parts in Brunswick, at 3pm, to go home to cook 100 meals, including her famous fried rice, before her 6.30pm start at the market.

In addition to the meals, this time they gave each person backpacks, donated through a social media call-out, containing T-shirts, socks, toiletries and tinned food.

The bags also contained Christmas cards and cookies, made by Ms Chuah’s friend, with a label saying: "Merry Christmas, wishing you a season of love and hope."

A special Christmas cookie that was also being given out to the homeless.Credit:Eddie Jim

Another friend, Justine Oh, of Parkville, described the family’s work as "selfless".

On Tuesday, Ms Oh brought her daughter, Jacqueline, 8, to help hand out the backpacks "to demonstrate that there are people that need us to help".

"But Cecilia and her family have been doing this every week, tirelessly, and they’ve got full-time jobs," Ms Oh said.

New friends: Cecilia Chuah, right, serving at Queen Victoria Market earlier in 2020.Credit:Cecilia Chuah

"They genuinely just want to help the community."

It started by chance, one night seven months ago. Ms Chuah was delivering meals for her Malaysian food business, when she saw people sitting in the market car park.

She went home, cooked a batch of fried rice and drove back to give containers of it to the people at the market.

Homeless people queue for home-cooked meals on a Tuesday night at Queen Victoria Market. Credit:Cecilia Chuah

When Ms Chuah returned a week later, "a couple of them asked my husband, 'is it your wife who cooked that delicious fried rice'?"

The need for meals for the homeless on Tuesday nights arose after some soup vans ceased operating during the pandemic. The family kept coming back, and now feed about 70 people per week.

Ms Chuah said her view of the homeless has changed. She says she now knows how easily it can happen and that people don’t choose to be homeless.

"Some are being abused by their partner, some have been kicked out by their parents." She said, "we just do a little bit to help them".

She was happy that one man in his 30s recently found a job. She worries about a teenager, her daughter’s age, who was ‘‘always hungry’’.

"I don’t see her any more, so hopefully she’s gone back to her parents."

Ms Chuah will continue the work in 2021. "The homeless are there every Tuesday expecting me to go there. I don’t know how, but we’ll definitely find a way."

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