I believe it's very important to be a supportive Tamil Community member and pay it forward. Over the years, I've tutored Tamil children whose families immigrated to Canada. As they have found their new home within a bilingual country, they are being exposed to a new language. My focus has been on helping to educate youth to learn French.
My latest initiative is a response to the struggles individuals and businesses have been facing due to Covid-19. What started out as a gesture for my mother which involved feeding frontline emergency-room-working staff has blossomed into the unity of a city in waiting. I began to notice a similar demand for support in the Hospitality Industry. It was brought to my attention that a potential 30% of restaurateurs may not be able to reopen their establishments due to the economic impact of Covid-19. This prompted me to create an initiative entitled, "Covid Care Kitchen". It aims to help restaurants stay afloat while managing these challenging times.
The Birth of Covid Care Kitchen
We all have a common enemy here, this is not just my problem. The nature of slowing down has allowed people to do more thoughtful things. I started off as one person wanting to give, and quickly realized support was needed for Toronto hospitality as a whole. I began to probe my vast network of like thinkers and my contacts were eager to help out.
In turn, Covid Care Kitchen was born. This initiative works by collecting donations to provide food for those in need. Every $10 donated feeds one person, one meal. In addition, the restaurateurs that partner with the program are able to earn a little bit of business income while doing big things for the city. A little goes a long way, and it has been quite moving to see the response in people who want to help. Even $20 will feed two people.
I've orchestrated numerous events throughout the Greater Toronto Area. The pivot began when I realized support to some frontline workers in nursing homes had been somewhat overlooked. Part of my intention is to connect communities in the spirit of giving. Primarily, prior funding had been allocated to hospitals. I wanted to ensure that the support would be extended to spaces that had previously been missing out.
Chef Sharma Feeds Nursing Home Staff
The Covid Care Kitchen operates with the help of additional team members. Shailendra Mann and Ravi Rella have assisted in the support of those who need more attention. In addition, I was connected through mutual contacts to Chef Sharma. The team knew that Chef Sharma’s Catering business was struggling and we decided to use the Covid Care kitchen to support him. Undoubtedly excited, Chef Sharma agreed to cook for the next event. His Chicken Pulao and raita meals were made for 160 nursing home staff members at Revera-Northridge Long-Term Care Centre and Erin Mills Lodge.
A Tanto-lizing Experience
As a regular customer of Tanto Restaurant, Shailendra and I passed by to pick up food and lend a hand to Head Chef and Owner, Julian Iliopous. Our visit brought to our attention the struggle the business was facing during the pandemic. We decided immediately to organize the next dropoff in support of this company. Tanto made fifty Shaved Roast Beef Sandwiches, accompanied by fresh salad. These meals were provided to the D.A.R.E (Drug and Alcohol Recovery Enhancement) clients and staff, at Good Shepherd Ministries -- a Toronto based homeless shelter.
The Big One with Sapori
This would not be the end of the road for the Covid Care Kitchen team. A quick referral to another business in need led to the biggest event yet. On June 14th, my team and I paired with Ryan Sciara -- owner of Sapori Restaurant. This enormous event fed a whopping 350 people! The meals were prepared early morning and dropped off at Good Shepherd Ministries. Recipients enjoyed a gourmet lunch that included hot porchetta sandwiches and apple coleslaw.
Can you believe that after this long day of preparations, an additional drop off was made to Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital? After seeing the work that Covid Care Kitchen had done, Sharmila Srinithiananthasing, a Tamil Respiratory Therapist at Sick Kids, reached out to me. This was in response to a TamilCulture post on Instagram. “It’s amazing to see how the Tamil Community has come together to unite each other with the power of social media,” she said.
Supporting JerkUp Central
In addition to these efforts, part of my mission is to support Black owned businesses. Easton Robinson of JerkUp Central was the host of the second drop off that day. It consisted of 30 meals of Jerk and BBQ Chicken, accompanied by rice, peas, and a vegetable medley. On this day, the meals were enjoyed by the staff of Sick Kids Hospital.
Part of my strategy is to stray from overtly asking for donations in understanding current financial times. Instead, I try to encourage the people of Toronto to share the initiative through their social networks. This is in the hopes of Toronto working in conjunction with the Tamil Community and the Covid Care Kitchen. The idea is to grow the initiative and bring the word to those who may be in a position to make monetary contributions. My vision is to help the community to be fed, nourished, and strong.
My team and I are incredibly grateful for the support that the Tamil Community has given in these times. I'm looking forward to giving back while working alongside the community to build the Covid Care Kitchen.