For the past three years, students and volunteers at Amazing Tutors Inc. have been putting together shelter food packs in a program that began “right here in the heart of Newton.”
Sunshine Food Bags, as husband-and-wife duo Sikandar and Suzanne Hayat called them, include a juice box, a muffin, a mandarin and a chocolate or candy. Suzanne said Amazing Tutors has delivered thousands of the bags to organizations, mainly in Surrey, helping the homeless or less fortunate.
Now in the last several weeks, Suzanne said, they’ve expanded to Vancouver, delivering more than 800 bags in four weeks.
Sikandar said that because of the bad weather recently, they received more donations from Vancouver.
“Our policy is that when we get donations from Vancouver, we keep them separate, he said. “Some donors, their wish is to help the community in Vancouver, so we decided that when donations come from Vancouver, we use that money to serve people in Vancouver and the funds which we raise in Surrey, those are used in Surrey.”
The goal, Suzanne said, was to deliver 1,000 bags in Vancouver and deliver more bags to Surrey organizations.
The Sunshine Food Bags program started as a way for the children at Amazing Tutors to “express their love and their compassion for their community,” Suzanne said.
“We felt that as a team, we want to give back to the community and alleviate hunger.”
Amazing Tutors has been in Newton since 2005, but it was about five or six years ago it that it expanded to include the registered non-profit Amazing Tutors Children’s Foundation, Sikandar said, which allows the group to give back to the community.
The students at Amazing Tutors help to package the food bags which are then distributed to different organizations in Surrey and Vancouver.
“When they pack it, they give their time to give their best, their generosity, their patience, their kindness, their love for the community – that’s what they’re giving in when they’re packing these bags, so that we can deliver it to people without housing,” Suzanne said.
Most of the student volunteers are aged 14 to 16 years old, Sikandar said, but there are some as young at six years old helping out.
“We can see the change in them. They are more responsible in their studies, they have a different perspective in life, they’re more serious when they talk about their experiences,” Sikandar said. “It’s affecting their mindset, they’re becoming more responsible, they have more appreciation of life and that’s what’s we want — a two-way benefit.”
While the bags might not turn anybody’s life around, Sikandar said, the aim is to give people something to look forward to.
“Just like we want to feel good sometimes, they want to feel good sometimes. Our aim is to make their few minutes better.”
To donate to the Sunshine Food Bags program, people can visit amazingtutors.ca/make-a-donation.html.