In the early 70s, I was involved with one of our church charity movements, the St Vincent de Paul Society For the Poor. The aim of this society is to care for the poor and impoverished living in the vicinity of our parish, be they Malays, Chinese or Indians. We have monthly collections from the parishioners and these monies were then used to buy provisions for the poor, such as a packet of rice, sugar, salt, salted fish, a can of condensed milk, and biscuits, that would probably not last more than 10 days. No cash was handed out for fear of it being abused. We distributed the rations on the first Saturday of each month in the church compound. Even though with such meager handouts, some of these elderly folks would come early, sometimes to sit under the hot sun to wait for opening of the ration door. They would queue up in an orderly manner and many a time after they have collected their rations, some of them out of gratitude would cling onto our clothes and cried.
Once a quarter some of us would pay the families a visit and I must admit the living conditions were appalling. The Indians who were living in Kampong Pandan have to share their abode with cows. However, should one child finds a job, they will be removed from the ration list to be replaced by another deserving family. The living conditions of the Chinese and Malays were no better either. But no matter what, we tried to help them the best we could.
There was never at any one time when the thought of converting these poor folks to Christians crossed our minds. We were there to serve the poor to alleviate their sufferings. Now to be told by Hasan Ali that we give handouts to convert the Malays is really a low blow. I am no longer with the movement but I am sure that despite the unkind remarks made by Hasan Ali, the SVDP will continue to assist the destitute irrespective of race or religion.