Father Henry Siew saw the economic crisis looming and initiated Matthew 25 to provide free meals to those in need

SINGAPORE – A cup of water, a plateful of food, and shelter from the hot sun – that is what Mr Fu, a 38-year-old labourer from China, looks forward to at lunchtime. He has been in Singapore for a year and comes to Matthew 25, a soup kitchen located in front of Punggol Park, for a free lunch, everyday, to save money. This is because he sends most of the little money he earns here to his family of five in China, to put his children through school and give them a better life.

Matthew 25 started in April last year. It is the brainchild of Father Henry Siew, parish priest of Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Father Henry had noticed the economic crisis looming and wanted to do something to help those who would be affected.

“It was all divine providence,” he said, as he described how he met Tony Tay, the founder of Willing Hearts which distributes food across the island and had the resources to establish Matthew 25.

Father Henry explained that the name of the soup kitchen is derived from Matthew 25:40, in which Jesus says, “In truth, I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me.”

During the early stages, Father Henry asked the parish community to lend a helping hand and 25 parishioners responded. The next task was to get the message out to the needy; this was done through the church bulletin and word-of-mouth.

Initially, around 50 people came forward every day to get food. Today, Matthew 25 caters more than 800 meals a day, cooking not only for those who come to the compound but, through Willing Hearts, provides food to others at different distribution points around Singapore.

Coordinator and founding member Rosalind Lee told CatholicNews that Matthew 25 volunteers cook about 80 to 90 kilogrammes of rice a day.

Ms Lee, who is in her 50s and is an active church volunteer, is at Matthew 25 by 7.00am six days a week to coordinate the effort. She said Matthew 25 has never had a funding problem. “We are blessed. There’s always enough food for everyone,” she said. Donations, including fish and vegetables, are received regularly. Meat, on the other hand, is not so common and usually needs to be bought.

By Angela Anthony

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