Serving up hope for refugee families

PETALING JAYA: It has been hard, often back-breaking, work but the trio behind The Picha Project has successfully built their business around a social cause they believe in: helping refugee families earn a decent wage by catering and selling food from their kitchens.

Suzanne Ling, Lee Swee Lin and Kim Lim started The Picha Project three years ago barely out of college and with no prior experience in business.

But they were determined to earn a living doing something worthwhile.

The business started with just three refugee families. Today, 15 refugee families cater food for business and consumers through The Picha Project and the girls have gained recognition not just locally but internationally.

“We have had ups and downs, good times and bad times. We have stretched ourselves in terms of the different skills we need to learn and the roles we need to take on.

But it has been worth it … seeing the lives of these families change. These women actually empower us in the way they are willing to work, learn and help others out.

For their work and success, The Picha Project has won numerous awards such as the Allianz Future Generations Award by Impact Hub. They were also finalists at the Chivas Venture Global Final 2018 in Amsterdam (having won the national-level competition) and awarded with US$50,000 (RM299,000) last May.

“The awards have enabled us to improve our infrastructure and build our team. We have set up a home kitchen system so that more home cooks can produce food professionally out of their homes,” says Kim, adding that they are on the lookout for more refugee families to join their enterprise as cooks. They are also looking to expand their team.

Kim and her partners will be talking about building The Picha Project at the WOW! Fiesta on March 16 at the Starling Mall in Petaling Jaya. They will join other women entrepreneurs, co-founder of The Accidental Bakers, Ee-Lyn Tan and founder of fitness apparel brand Ash Be Nimble, Hui Matthews, in a panel session titled “What No One In Business Will Ever Tell You”.

The Wow! Fiesta, which will take place on March 16 and 17, is part of Star Media Group’s WOW–Women do Wonders campaign to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Other sessions include a finance talk on March 16 by celebrity entrepreneur Chui Ling titled, “Unlocking Your Financial Power”, sponsored by Bursa Malaysia Bhd.

There will also be two health talks: Keeping Abreast of Breast Health by consultant breast and oncoplastic surgeon Dr Tan Gie Hooi and Screening Preconceptions and Beyond by Dr Jaspal Singh Sachdev, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, both from ParkCity Medical Centre.

The founders of fashion brand Mimpikita, sisters Nurul Afidah, Amirah Hanis, Fatimah Ani, and La Juiceria founder Anabelle Co-Martinent will also share their stories in the session, Living Life On Your Own Terms. Visitors attending the talks will be eligible for lucky draws.

The WOW! Fiesta will also feature more than 80 women entrepreneurs who will be selling a wide range of products from categories such as beauty, fashion, food, education, wealth and household appliances.

Ramsay Sime Darby Health Care and Bursa Malaysia Bhd are the campaign sponsors of The Star’s WOW – Women do Wonders campaign. For details, go to

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