KUALA LUMPUR: Clad in a red shirt and scarf, Khairunnisak was bright and cheerful as she conversed with everyone at the table. By her side were her husband, Mohamad Fazli and her toddler.
At the table, she told everyone stories about her residence at the halfway house, Pusat Transit Gelandangan, where they stayed for two months, and where she had come today to enjoy a Chinese New Year treat.
Previous to that, they had lived on the streets of Chow Kit for a few years before her husband managed to get a job at a convenience store.
Just two weeks ago, they moved into their first flat, and although it wasn’t luxurious, Khairunnisak said she was content regardless.
“As long as there is a roof covering my son’s head, I am happy,” the 37-year-old said, her face gleaming even though she was missing her two front teeth.
Even though she was telling stories of her hardship, she giggled and joked, saying she did not like it when other people felt pity towards her.
“I want people to be happy,” she exclaimed. “We all go through rough times. That is God’s will but I have my husband to support me and he has me to do the same,” she said at a Chinese New Year open house organised by Institut Onn Ja’afar, an NGO, the same halfway house she once resided in.
This was her seventh year celebrating Chinese New Year at the open house here. About 250 homeless people and children were at the open house.
Khairunnisak said she and her family enjoyed participating in the celebrations of different cultures at this halfway house because they felt welcomed here.
She said she loved celebrating Chinese New Year as she claimed her favourite colour was red and that the “lions” performing the lion dance were adorable. As if to demonstrate the truth of her words, she stood up and danced with her toddler, who was waving his arms around in pure glee, when the performance commenced.
Timidly sitting next to her was Nor Faizal, her adoptive brother whom she had met more than 10 years ago.
Hailing from Perak, Faizal came to Kuala Lumpur for medical treatment because he had been suffering from asthma since he was a child.
“I am constantly going in and out of the hospital,” he said as he ate an orange. “I’m afraid to go back to Perak. My family and I don’t have a good relationship. They’ll kick me out of the house.”
The 35-year-old said he met Khairunnisak by chance in front of a market and had since then considered her as his “big sister”.
“She is kind, she always puts others first. She told me if I didn’t have a family, we could become a family” he told FMT.
“I’m different from everyone,” Faizal said as he scratched his shaved head. “They still accept me for who I am! My real family might not love me, but I have found others who can love me, and here I’ve found a community that loves me too.”
The institute handed out ang pows – small red packets with money – to the needy present and provided a buffet with an array of dishes.
Volunteers from Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences (CUCMS) were present to serve food and conversing with the guests.