Nizar Mohamed Shariff’s life today is a world apart from the affluent lifestyle he used to lead. Formerly in the shipping business, he was living it up in the lap of luxury with multiple cars and gifting luxury watches and jewellery to his family on a whim.
The turning point came in 2014 when, at the age of 43, Nizar’s conscience began catching up with him.
“I don’t like the feeling of making money off the sweat, tears and pain of others. That’s what shipping is all about. I’ve seen grown-ups grovelling on the floor crying and begging for mercy; it’s very dirty. I just couldn’t stand the lies and the trickery involved,” he says, describing the unethical and sometimes unscrupulous business practices that are par for the course in the industry.
I measure someone’s wealth no longer by what he has, but by what he’s willing to give.
Compelled by his misgivings, he set out to do good instead. His early efforts in philanthropy, however, were thwarted by a con woman, who swindled him of thousands of dollars not once, but twice.
“I realised how terrible people can be; how people abused the system, collected the money and then the money disappeared. I did not have faith in the charity system in Singapore,” Nizar recalls. So he decided to establish his own organisation instead. Free Food For All (FFFA) was set up to provide free halal meals to those in need, regardless of race and religion.
In the first six months, he used up more than $100,000 of his own funds, and as the movement gained traction, FFFA was officially registered as a charity in 2015, with Institutions of a Public Character (IPC) status thus allowing for tax-deductible donations.
FFFA now runs several programmes to address food insecurity and food waste, providing food for 80 to 100 families a month, and has served more than 100,000 households in Singapore to date.