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January 29, 2016

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Nonprofit group brings hot meals to homeless

Sean Pang, a 44-year-old Singapore native, is distributing hot meals to homeless people under an elevated expressway near Tianmu Road on Saturday night.

“Hey, Lao Zhang, how are you doing?” he asks one man as he stops to chat with several homeless individuals, many of whom have become like old friends.

This is a normal Saturday for Pang and other volunteers at the Shanghai Kechara Soup Kitchen.

Pang, with his wife and two friends, established the grassroots nonprofit group to distribute free hot meals to Shanghai’s homeless back in November 2011.

Today, Kechara has more than 300 volunteers in the city. On average, they distribute 70 meals every Saturday night at two fixed spots; one near Shanghai Railway Station, the other near Tianmu Road.

The weekly activity has been running continuously for four years, even through Christmas time and Spring Festival.

“We have a choice to not go out when the weather is nasty... When we are hungry, we eat; when we are cold, we go to the closet and bring out something warm,” Pang says. “Homeless people don’t have that choice.”

When Pang arrived at the Tianmu Road location, about 20 homeless people had already gathered there. Some of these individuals sleep under the nearby expressway, others near Nanjing Road E.

Lao Zhang, 66, is one of the homeless individuals helped by Kechara. Zhang was left blind by an eye condition that developed several years ago. When volunteers at Kechara learned about his condition, they raised funds for an operation that restored his sight.

“I had to walk with a stick before,” Zhang told Shanghai Daily. “But now I can see the road and other people thanks to Pang and the other volunteers. They are very good people.”

According to Pang, Kechara has a budget to provide homeless people age 65 or older with at least one hot meal every day. It also helps younger individuals find ways to support themselves.

Outside of his volunteer activities, Pang is a consultant at a Shanghai-based firm. His job focuses on helping professionals reach their potential both in business and their private lives.

“I’ve always been passionate about people,” he explained.

The well-traveled Pang has worked all around the world over the past two decades, but it was love that led him to Shanghai.

In 2012, he moved to the city and after two years he proposed to his Shanghainese wife, Christine Wang. She describes him as a tall and handsome guy. She added that she was struck by his good sense of humor when they first met on separate business trips in Taiwan.

These days, the happy couple is often seen volunteering together on Saturday nights.

For his charitable deeds, Pang recently received a Shanghai International Excellence Award. As he sees it though, this honor is less about him than Kechara itself. He hopes the award will help spread the word about the organization and allow it to do even more good deeds in the future.

“The people around us, they all want to do more for society,” Pang said. “If everyone does just a little bit, at home or for the people close to you, society will be a wonderful place to live in.”


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