Islamabad: Amid the prevailing lockdown in the country, majority of small and medium businesses have either suspended their operations or restricted them to quite a considerable level resulting in joblessness of hundreds of low-paid employees and daily wage workers.
This dismal scenario has however failed to wear out Rukhsana Izhar’s spirits who has been running free food service for the poor and the destitute for the last thirty years or so.
While talking to Gulf News on Monday, Rukhsana, 58, said after outbreak of virus she was asked by her friends and children that food serving should be suspended until the virus days are over. However, she did the opposite.
“Coronavirus has impacted lives of the poor in a way one cannot even imagine. Hundreds of security guards, salesmen and women, assistants and poor workers who were working at showrooms, shopping malls, business centres, banks and private offices all of a sudden found themselves jobless and there was no one to feed them or their families,” said Rukhsana.
"I thought what they would do if we discontinued serving food to them at a time when they needed it more than ever before. Agreeing to my point of view, we started preparing food in larger quantity," she said.
In her work, Rukhsana is joined by her children, sisters, volunteers and a number of well-off families of the town.
“With their support and patronage, today we are serving food to more than 500 persons daily and all this is taking place without any government support,” said Rukhsana.
At the door of her house in Johar Town, it is written in bold words: “No one will sleep hungry. Food is available 24 hours.”
However, for the safety of those who come for food at her door or those who help her in the gigantic task, Rukhsana and her family have maintained social distancing.
“The authorities have suggested four feet distance between two persons but we are keeping it six feet,” said she. We have also refused to serve food to children and elderly persons to prevent spread of coronavirus. In the beginning, it was a challenge to prevent women from coming along with their children but we convinced them that it was in their own interest and in the interest of their families that a safe distance is maintained while availing them of this free service.
Her son, Huzaifa Izhar Ahmad, a graduate of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) is also running a social entrepreneur project “Rizq” along with other LUMS graduates and volunteers who collect unused or leftover food from various hotels and restaurants of the town and distribute it further among the poor and the needy.