Lessons with Picha

Written by
Najwa Salsabila Azmi

August is finally here, marking my third month with The Picha Project.

Looking back, it was three months of having good food almost every day, three months of learning new things – being outside of lectures with no textbooks as references, three months of running here and there, three months after I first realized the world really doesn’t revolve around me, three months after I moved out of my comfort zone, and three months of getting new families.

At the moment of writing this, I have 11 days in office before leaving to continue my studies. Mixed feelings.

I could not deny that there are times, I questioned over and over again, why am I doing this? I came in accepting the offer to be a part of the team without having any visions or future plans – I planned a detailed one two years ago, but I didn’t get to enter my dream university, so I just buried everything and forced myself to venture into the business world (which I hated a lot), but that’s the only option left. For the whole year in the university, it was all about getting good scores and nothing else – until I joined Picha team, where I was dragged all over the places to see the other side of this country that I knew it existed, but I was too ignorant to bother about them, well, life was all about me and those people who provide me comfort.

There are two things that I appreciated so much in Picha; the team and the lessons of understanding others.

Two weeks before the fasting month, I followed my colleague for a CSR collaboration program and it was at a PPRT, (government residential program for the poor), which I had never been to and frankly speaking, when we reached there, I was speechless to see the kids running here and there without slippers and playing beside the drains. At that time, all I wanted to do was to go to the kids and tell them to wear slippers, don’t go near dirty places, and be clean but I was totally blown away with everything that was happening around me, so I stayed quiet.

Then, there was this one cute boy who smiled brightly when we gave him the food box and a group of children, sat down together and they were sharing their food as the boxes came in several choices. At that very moment, I have completely forgotten all those complaints that I have for the place, I was so immersed in observing the people embracing their own definition of happiness. It was beautiful. The mothers, fathers, siblings, neighbors, and children were smiling, enjoying the food and the kept on thanking us until we got into the car.

That was my first lesson; happiness is subjective. Not everyone can live by the rule of my joy.

For me, happiness is when I get to do what I want, without any trouble, being comfortable but “enough” was never there. But for the people I met on that day, happiness is not about being in a big house, having good food every day, living in a well-maintained area with higher cost, their happiness is about being enough and those extra things they have, are for sharing. That was when I told myself, what makes you content, might not works for others, understand what it is – do not decide what it should be.

Throughout the time I spent with the team, I continuously learn new things, new perspective, and new ideas. But what will I cherish the most is how they taught and showed me that anyone can contribute even when money is not your forte. The three of them, dedicated their time, energy, and knowledge (well, almost everything they have) for the sake of getting the families back on the track of living their normal lives. Before this, I thought that I can only help others when I am rich, so I won’t worry about not having enough fund in the middle of the work.

They proved that wrong. They started without having anything, yet they impacted others more than the loaded ones. My three jie (read: sister), begin from nothing – they grow with the guidance from the ones that share the same vision like them.  Along the way, I have seen people like me, poor with no extra money to help, come along devoting their time and energy to ease the team burden, those who earn more would help by purchasing and connecting us through their network.

It was amazing.

It gave me another rule of life – willingness is more valuable than money can be.

During my time with the team, I got to meet the families and with this little knowledge of Arabic that I have, I still struggle to understand the mothers – even when I can understand them, I hardly can reply them because I am forgetting the language after years of not practicing it. But, they still can understand whatever I am telling them by mixing 3 languages in one sentence, with hands as communication support. We still can laugh at the jokes and we still enjoy the same food, we share the same meaning of “delicious”.

Prior to departing, I told Rania that I will leave soon to continue my studies and will only be back in one-year time. She insisted to teach me how to cook chicken briyani because I kept on saying I will miss all these food, but I couldn’t find any free time to visit her. Every time I went to her place, she would prepare me a cup of ‘qohwah’, the Arabic coffee so, she packed me a packet of coffee powder, two sets of cup and saucer, the coffee boiler, and a spoon for me to take it back and have a coffee whenever I miss her food. That was the time I had my second thought on going back to resume my studies.

I have always been curious of how the three co-founders can be so determined and the way they see this thing in the future. So, whenever I have time with each of them, I managed to ask them this one question.

“Do you ever think that this thing (Picha) will not work out?”

I should say they are bonded by heart and they are not doing this for fun. Their answers were the same, exactly the same.

“We will make it work. Whatever it takes, we will find a way.”

Sometimes I regret asking this question because right after I got the response, I realized that I am dealing with someone that is at a different level of thinking, probably they’re from another planet because every time I ask questions about their opinions, their plans – they can make this 21-year-old girl thinking what did she miss in her life after all this time.

I am glad that I was able collect everything that I’d missed in this three-month time. I am more than blessed to meet this team, who opened a new path for me, who encourage me to do what I have always wanted to do. The families who showed me the real survival means, whatever I have now is not the hard-life lesson yet.

Well, till then.

Thank you <3