To My Hero, Zaza

Written by,
Kim Lim

Flew to the hospital right after I got a message that Zaza is dying..

Flew to the hospital right after I landed in KL from a trip back from Lombok..

Flew to the hospital without caring how much it is going to cost to call for a Grab or Uber..

..because we knew that a close friend, a great person, a dear family member of ours is leaving us anytime.

By the time I arrived at the hospital, Zaza was already on life-support system and was unconscious, there’s nothing much we could do except to hope for the best. It hurts a lot during the wait and watching a family member leaving us - but knowing that his wife and son would be left behind hurts more because we know how dearly he loved them, and we know that he would do anything to keep them happy.

By evening, we lost Zaza.

The first time I talked to Zaza was on the phone. Many people asked how did we get in touch with refugee families when we started The Picha Project - we actually got a list from a micro-entrepreneur course conducted by NAWEM with names and details of families who we can possibly work with, call them up, tell them what we do and if they are interested, we will visit their house, try out their food and understand their background. Zaza was one of them. It was a bit hard to get hold of Zaza at the first place because he couldn’t speak english well. In the beginning, it was really frustrating because I didn’t expect it would be so hard to communicate. However, I told myself, I just have to be patient, talk slower, speak the keywords and try it out again. Zaza was smart, he got hold of a friend who could speak english and tried conversing with me, that’s how we got connected after that.

First time visiting Zaza’s humble home, it was abit intimidating for me. They were so friendly and like any other Picha families, they always cook a feast even though we said only 2-3 people are visiting. I wasn’t used to eating middle eastern food at that time, but the first time we tried Zaza’s food, I thought it was blant although my partners thought it was good. However, due to their superb attitude, we immediately brought them on board and decided to work this out together. At that time, MaGIC was our biggest client and Zaza was preparing most of the meals to the participants and staff in MaGIC. From there, we kept working on the taste with Zaza to improve and he was always very open to experiment and learn.

There were many incidents and conversations that Zaza made us appreciate him so much because we know that whatever he does, it was for the betterment of The Picha Project. He clearly knew what The Picha Project is doing and was very aligned with our vision. Although he was one of the beneficiaries, but he knew that with his work, he can further help other families that we are trying to assist, and we were really very impressed with his involvement.

I remember during one of our open houses with Zaza during Christmas, he cooked a feast ready to feed a village instead of a bunch of 15-20 guests. He even prepared christmas gifts for them to bring home because he wanted to make us proud. How he always mention that his family belongs to The Picha Project and trust us in arranging anything for them really touched our hearts - because he believes that whatever we do will be the best for them. Whenever there is a crisis (because we are really new and inexperience), he was always the calmest one to settle the problem while the 3 Picha girls panic. He would calm us down and even bring Ribena for us to cool down (lol). We dearly miss him right now.

Words can only express this much how amazing this person is, I wish more people could meet him personally and feel his resilience, positiveness and his appreciation to the world despite the hardships he had been through in Syria. Anyone that has met him and his family will certainly have a different view in life.

Last Friday, we launched #thezazamovement to a house full of Picha Heroes. It was a movement dedicated to Zaza as he wished to feed the needy during this Ramadan month when he was still hospitalised. If you have met the Picha girls 1 month ago sharing about what we do or what The Picha Project is all about, we would have ended it with a very positive note that all of us can join the movement and make a difference. Today, we tell people about Zaza - a father who nearly lost his son from the war back in Syria,  a refugee who had to sell everything including his house to escape from Syria to an unknown land, a man who got cheated by an agent and got lied to that he would get a house and a job, a husband who had to find ways to regain his life and support his family no matter what. Though he tried his best, it was still hard to pay the rental and put food on the table for the family sometimes. Until he met The Picha Project, he worked so hard to gain a stable life from this social enterprise, always serving his best to the Picha Heroes till he was diagnosed with sickness. If a man like Zaza can still think of others that are in need, I think we all who are privileged can probably do better. 

Many times, Zaza expressed how blessed he was to have met us because he truly felt how life-changing it was for him. Little did he know that it was the other way round, The Picha Project is much blessed to have Zaza on this journey with us since the very beginning, constantly trying to help us grow so that we can continue to help more families that are in need. He taught us so much more than we could imagine, helped us moved so much further than we ever thought we could, influenced us so much more with his positiveness and resilience. This month, The Picha Project is truly blessed to have had the opportunity to be featured on Air Asia’s in-flight magazine, Travel 360 and we know Zaza will be the happiest to know if he was still around. He will definitely organise a party, cook a feast, ask us to invite all the Picha families over to his place to celebrate and dance the night out. 

Today, The Picha Project continues to strive and soar with his spirit of giving and we will always have Zaza in our heart. The team will never stop sharing what this man has shared to us. Thank you, Zaza!