Malaysia is one of Asia’s great melting pots, with diverse representation from many Asian countries and cultures. From native Malay to Indian, Chinese and more, Malaysia brings amazing food to the dinner table. It is also home to over 150,000 refugees and asylum-seekers.¹

23-year old Swee Lin Lee and her co-founders, Suzanne Lin and Kim Lim, founded the Picha Project to help refugees find employment and contribute their own culture to the Malaysian mixing bowl.

Picha Project: Empowering Refugees and Serving Great Food

Sakina, from Afghanistan, preparing a meal

The Picha Project is a social enterprise based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At its core, Picha is a food delivery and catering service. It employs refugee families who leverage their existing cooking skills and native recipes to fulfil delivery and catering orders. In doing so, Picha acts as a platform through which refugees can refine their business skills–including inventory management, accounting, and more–and earn a living.

Customers can visit the Picha Project website and look at the many different menus–including “Nawal’s Iraqi Kitchen,” “Ganu’s Burmese Kitchen,” and more–to place their order.

The families prepare meals as orders come in, and Picha Project coordinates packaging and delivery. Profits are divided evenly between the family and Picha Project. Already, they’ve served over 12,000 meals.

Using a Social Enterprise to Keep Refugee Children in School

When Swee Lin, Suzanne and Kim were volunteering at a school for refugee children, they noticed that some students were dropping out of school. Upon visiting the families, they learned that the students left school to work because their families needed the money. Picha Project started when the three co-founders convinced their friends and family to buy prepared meals from the refugee families. They were trying to help the families earn extra income so the children could stay in school.

picha-project-social-enterprise-impact-beacon-refugeesThe Picha Project gained momentum quickly. In fact, the progress Picha has made since launching in early 2016 is remarkable. Already, revenues are high enough that all three co-founders were able to leave their previous jobs, focus full-time on the enterprise, and earn a small salary.

Most importantly, they are currently employing 8 refugee families who came to Malaysia from places including Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

Beyond that, Picha organizes events where the families can all meet one another. It is the start of a new community and network for these families who are very far from home.

Goals for the Future: Target New Customers…Strategically

Like so many Impact Beacon spotlights, the founders of Picha Project are a living testament that anyone can make a difference. Just by doing what feels right, something great can grow completely organically.

picha-project-social-enterprise-impact-beacon-refugeesThe three co-founders have many objectives for 2017, but one is to fuel their expansion by targeting new customers strategically. By securing more recurring customers–especially large companies placing catering orders–Picha Project could employ and empower more families on a full-time basis. Right now, Swee Lin and her co-founders are focused on incorporating more long-term, repeat customers who will place larger orders for events and business meetings.

Swee Lin, Suzanne and Kim have been both professional and intentional in their development of Picha. From its website and marketing strategy to the business model, they’ve put a lot of thought and energy into laying a foundation for the enterprise. 2017 should be another exciting year for them!

Take Action: Show Your Support
  1. Support Picha Project by sharing this post with #RefugeesWelcome and #Refugees. If you live in Kuala Lumpur, visit http://www.pichaproject.com/ to place an order.
  2. Search “UNHCR + [your country]”. Find out how the UN’s refugee agency is helping in your country, and how you can get involved.

To learn more about Picha Project, visit http://www.pichaproject.com/.

Photo Credit: Gerry Fox


¹Know Your Numbers, UNHCR Malasyia. http://www.unhcr.org.my/About_Us-@-Figures_At_A_Glance.aspx

Picha Project: Empowering Refugee Families in Malaysia
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