Causes Week 2020: Sisters set up soup kitchen offering free vegetarian meals to the needy

Causes Week runs this year from Dec 20 to 25. It shines a light on various individuals and groups, and shows how they are making a difference through their chosen causes within the community.

(From left) Ms Gandhini Devi Dasi, Ms Latha Govindasamy, and Ms Chandralatika Devi Dasi with her husband Mr Raghupati Das. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Gandhini Devi Dasi (left) and Latha Govindasamy handing out free meals at Krsna's Free Meals. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Inspired by the generosity of their late parents, three sisters have come together to provide free vegetarian meals to the needy.

Krsna's Free Meals was started in 2018 and it offers free breakfast and lunch daily to migrant workers, the elderly and anyone else in need.

Ms Chandralatika Devi Dasi, 57, Ms Gandhini Devi Dasi, 54, and Ms Latha Govindasamy, 51, are the sisters behind the soup kitchen.

They are joined by Mr Raghupati Das, 57, Ms Chandralatika's husband, and Mr Lee Chee Seng, 54, who is married to Ms Gandhini.

Krsna's Free Meals is located at 16 Veerasamy Road in Little India with breakfast available for takeaway from 6.30am to 9.30am. Lunch is served from 11am to 2.30pm.

Ms Latha, a former teacher, said: "My parents instilled in us the value of sharing and they told us you don't have to be rich to share."

Her father was a driver, her mother a housewife and they had eight children.

Her father was a man of modest means, yet he would invite poor people, including those he met at the temple, to eat with them at his home.

Ms Chandralatika, a housewife with two children, said her family also was also inspired by the teachings of their spiritual teacher and founder of the Hare Krishna movement, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who exhorted his followers to feed the poor so no one goes hungry.

Ms Chandralatika, who is one of the cooks at Krsna's, said: "My passion is cooking. And my children are grown up, so it's easier for me to do this."

Apart from Mr Lee, who is a logistics supervisor, the other four volunteer full-time at Krsna's Free Meals.

It has been registered as a society and the group is in the midst of applying to become a charity. It now provides up to 800 breakfast and 700 lunch boxes a day.

The five are aided by a pool of over 300 volunteers who work in shifts, with safe management measures in place, to cut the vegetables and pack the meals.

Krsna's Free Meals is located at 16 Veerasamy Road in Little India. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

They initially forked out a five-figure sum from their own pockets to kick-start their soup kitchen, said Ms Latha.

But over time, donors have stepped forward with food and cash.

"Singaporeans are a very generous lot," she said.

The donors include vegetable wholesalers and some migrant workers, some of whom will give a 5kg or 10kg pack of rice on payday.

Ms Latha said that one reason why the group decided to offer free vegetarian meals was because none of the other soup kitchens in Singapore provided such fare.

Many migrant workers are vegetarians, she noted.

Those who receive the free meals include the elderly who are poor and cardboard collectors.

Some unemployed people, victims of the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, are also coming forward for the free meals.

"Anyone can come and take the food - no questions asked," said Ms Latha.

Retired butcher Gulam Hussan, 81, who is single and lives in a rental flat, has been among those receiving free meals for the past year.

He said: "The free meals are very good for poor people like us. And the food is good."

To find out more, visit the Krsna's Free Meals website.

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