JAKARTA, Indonesia 

It was early in the morning when some people lined up to get free packages of food hanging from a fence in front of a residential home in Indonesia’s South Tangerang city.

They queued orderly to get vegetables, noodles, tempeh, tofu, and bread wrapped in plastic bags distributed by an NGO.

Inspired by an Ottoman tradition, the charity group Indonesia Care provided food packages to needy people affected by the lingering coronavirus pandemic under a program called “Movement of Mutual Sharing.”

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Lukman Aziz, the executive director of Indonesia Care, said they were inspired by “askida ekmek” or “bread on a hanger”, a tradition a custom rooted in Ottoman times.

Donors paid for two packages of groceries containing various kinds of vegetables and side dishes but only took one, while another bag would be distributed to the needy people.

In the tradition, people go to a bakery and pay for two loaves of bread but only take one. While paying for the bread, they would tell the shopkeeper that one of them is “askida ekmek”.

Their contribution would be bagged and hung along with others so the needy can take a loaf for free.

“This Ottoman tradition is an inspiration that gives a spirit for us to care for one another,” said Aziz.

He said he learned about the tradition through a video clip broadcast by a Turkish TV channel that had gone viral in Indonesia during the pandemic.

“By paying for two and giving one, we want to involve Indonesians to be part of solutions to economic difficulties,” he said.

Since quarantines, Large-Scale Social Restrictions, were re-imposed in Jakarta in mid-September, economic activities and movements of people have been restricted, affecting particularly the poor families, including the daily workers, Aziz added.

“We initiated the Mutual Sharing Movement to give what we have to the poor, because they have rights in our sustenance,” he continued.

Aziz said many people enthusiastically joined the programs which provide two ways of making donations: by wiring money for the food packages prepared by the organizer or directly hanging their own contributions.

The program has been running for 12 weeks in several cities in Jakarta, Central Java, West Java, and Banten provinces.

Aziz said a total of 50 to 100 packages have been distributed at each location so far, with nearly 1,000 beneficiaries.

The group hopes to further increase the number of aids and expand the reach.

“The donors are very enthusiastic to share with each other. They donate from 10,000 rupees [$0.67] to more than 1 million rupees [$67.31]. That doesn’t include those who directly come to the location to hang their own packages,” he said.

People who come to take or hang the food packages are required to wear masks to comply with COVID-19 health protocols, Aziz added.

Helping poor

Sumantri, the chief of a neighborhood in South Tangerang’s Pamulang sub-district, said the people who live around the area were greatly helped by the aid campaign.

He requested that the program be carried out every day amid the pandemic.

“Poor those who are affected, especially those who work with daily wages,” he said.

Ecin, a 90-year-old beneficiary, expressed her gratitude to all generous people who have been willing to share.

Nur Laila, 45, another beneficiary, welcomed the program as her family has been adversely affected by the pandemic.

“Due to the virus, our life is getting harder,” she added.

* Writing by Rhany Chairunissa Rufinaldo from Anadolu Agency’s Indonesian language services in Jakarta

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