PichaEats was started by a group of university students who, while volunteering in a refugee learning centre, noticed many of their young pupils dropped out in order to contribute to their families’ financial needs. So the students—Lee Swee Lin, Kim Lim and Suzanne Ling—decided to create a food business that would employ those children’s parents while the kids could continue to learn.
The trio discovered that many of the refugees, well-educated degree holders from countries like Syria, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq and Pakistan, had considerable cooking skills, so they encouraged them to prepare regional dishes at their homes that could be sold and marketed through PichaEats. Since 2016, the business, originally named the Picha Project after the child of its first “chef”, has helped more than 25 families achieve a sustainable livelihood and served more than 135,000 meals. Its website offers a wide range of regional dishes including Arabic delicacies like lamb kibbeh and chicken dumplings, as well as a variety of falafel.
“We chose food as our business because everyone needs to eat, and it’s also a universal language,” Lim told Tatler Malaysia this year. “We wanted to tell stories of other cultures through food and change people’s perspectives about certain cultures and communities, while also helping the refugees build a stable livelihood for themselves in Malaysia.”