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Meet the Filipina on a mission to help migrants in Dubai one meal at a time

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By JOHN LEGASPI

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This pandemic brought out the worst and best of all of us. When we focus on the good, we’ll see heroes out of unlikely individuals. Truly, heroes nowadays no longer wear a cape or that color-blocked suit. Real heroes are the ones aiding the ill, braving the streets for others’ needs, and people who spread kindness even in the most humble way.

For Filipina expat Feby Cachero Baguisa-Dela Peña, the mission is to feed the hungry of Dubai. With money good enough to feed her family for a month, she bought groceries and other food supplies and started her initiative Ayuda.

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Feby Cachero Baguisa-Dela Peña

Named after a Filipino word, which means “help,” Ayuda aims to give free food to unemployed migrants. It is no more than the usual household operation. Feby prepares these meals together with her family.

“My heart broke watching my fellow countrymen and women queueing up for a free meal. One day I felt greatly affected, and I decided to make food for them,” she tells Gulf News. “My husband had given me an allowance for home groceries. It was my budget for a month. I spent it all in one day and cooked for about 40 people on the first day of Eid. The word spread fast and the same day I had a demand from 150 people.”

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Feby’s prepared meals

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Feby, 34, a mother of three, is from Alaminos, Laguna. She has been living in Dubai for 12 years. Just like many migrants in the country, she is also unemployed.

Her day starts at 3 a.m. cooking meals. Some of the dishes she has served are classic Filipino favorites like Bicol Express and baked goods like chocolate crinkles. In the afternoon, at Patchi Muraqqabat and Westzo ne Sawa, she sets up her station with a cardboard sign that says “free food for everyone.”

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“We’re poor, to be honest. But it’s not a reason for me not to help, you know? Life is so hard and they don’t have anyone to depend on,” she says to AP. “If I stop this, many people will stop eating.”

With the help of other donors, Feby is now serving 400 food packs and also giving out supplies such as packed rice, eggs, and instant noodles to people in line.

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“People walk for over an hour in the heat to queue up for food,” she tells The National. “I have to help these people, I can’t help but imagine how I would feel if it was a member of my own family.”

This week, her efforts were recognized by Emirates Loto, which pledged to help her produce 10,000 meals for the needy.

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“Her work has truly changed lives for the better, and I would imagine the community is extremely thankful for her efforts,” says Paul Sebestyen, chief executive of Emirates Loto. “Her impact on the UAE community has been inspirational. We wanted to help support her by ensuring those whom she has helped, and more, can continue to be nourished on a daily basis.”

“Helping one person might not change the whole world, but I guess it could change the world for that one person,” Feby says. “Let’s all help genuinely not for fame or personal agenda, for there are so many people starving and needing us today.”

Images are from Feby’s Facebook account

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