Dato Ruby Khong: Inspiration Through Service

IJ Anita Tejwani
Published on: 26th February 2015
 “A monk once told me, ‘The day when the Tiger and Rabbit meet, that’s when your life will change …’ that fateful day turned out to be 23rd of December, 1994,” says Dato Ruby Khong, listed as one of Forbes Asia’s Heroes of Philanthropist. She is now 51 years and a great inspiration for all.

Not very keen at heart but after much persuasion from husband she happened to visit India in December, 1994. However, she wanted to be back to Malaysia in time for a New Year’s Eve party at Carcosa Sri Negara, one which she had ‘dutifully’ attended for the last few years. But much to her dismay, they discovered that they would only be returning on 3rd of January! This is when Ruby with her husband and others from Malaysia thought of discovering India.

“As I pushed my luggage trolley towards the check-in counter, I saw two young men dressed in maroon robes that were draped over one shoulder, while the other shoulder revealed what looked to me to be a sleeveless shirt. Their hair was cropped close to their head, and one of them was very tall and donned Armani sunglasses!” narrates Ruby. She initially thought of them to be student monks taking time off their studies to go on a holiday.

As everyone in the group gathered, the taller monk started asking their names and which Chinese zodiac year they were born in. As it turned out, one of the older men in their group was born in the year of the Tiger, and another in the year of the Rabbit. “I sat there thinking of what the Chinese monk had predicted and wondered how that could change my life…”
Dato Ruby Khong: Inspiration Through Service
Along the journey, she asked the monk a few questions, to which he answered with humour and interest. She started feeling drawn to his warmth, openness, quickness of mind, wittiness. He was seemingly unperturbed by even the most twisted and ridiculous questions   she posed to him.

“I still had many questions and doubts. I was at the crossroads of my life and had just experienced what seemed to be a traumatic period. I thought to myself, ‘Here is a monk who speaks your language, don’t lose this opportunity, do it now!’” she recalls.

“By now, a new fascinating interest in the Dharma had begun to grow in me as Tsem Tulku Rinpoche gave me the spiritual embrace that had been missing in my life. He taught me how to transform my ordinary life into ongoing Dharma practice, to let go of my ugly memories, hang-ups, traumas and inhibitions,” recollects Dato Ruby Khong. This is what she feels changed her life totally.

The experience in India transformed her significantly, inspiring Khong to get involved in charity work. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche also suggested her and few others to get together and feed the homeless. His Eminence Tsem Tulku Rinpoche himself experienced homelessness during his teenage years. “He had only one request to us: if you were to X-ray the stomach of a hungry person, it doesn't show you their gender, age, religion or race, it just shows you that this person is hungry. So, remember to always serve without prejudice,” mentions Ruby Khong who now hails as the President of Kechara Soup Kitchen (KSK).

Kechara Soup Kitchen is a non-governmental organisation, started in 2006 with volunteers who go out on the streets every weekend to feed over 1,000 hungry stomachs. It started with serving 20 food packets per week but now its 2400 packets per week nationwide. They never discriminate based on race, religion or creed. “We started by giving halal food. Later we decided that we should only serve vegetarian food,  so we can feed anyone and everyone we come across and they can eat with a peace of mind. Besides, vegetarian food is healthier too. The food is freshly cooked a few hours before serving so that it remains warm and fresh. We also give out another packet which consists of biscuits, bread, water and fruit. We do this in case the homeless are unable to find food on certain days. With this. packet, it can at least pull them through till their next meal. This reflects our motto which is "Hunger Knows No Barriers,” says Ruby.

We have evolved from merely giving food to providing medical aid and job placement opportunities. Each week KSK has at least 120 volunteers and the number is growing. Just before they hit the streets, everyone reads out a standard motivational verse to remind themselves of their main objective which is to help as many as possible to get  off the streets by finding them jobs and for those beyond working age, to find them shelter homes. We have also successfully reunited some homeless with their long lost families,” she says proudly.

As with any new NGO, fundraising and creating public awareness of the plight of the homeless and urban poor was the challenge. But with the help of the media, it was soon overcome. I think along the way, people saw and understood what we are doing. This encouraged volunteers and sponsors to come and support us, which was also an impact of media. Therefore, I am very thankful to the media for creating such public awareness and helping us gather public support,” mentions Khong. Dato Ruby wears another hat to be a lovely mother of three gorgeous fully grown children who are very active and work every day at Kechara regardless the season or any other calamity.

From our parents, we learn what is right and wrong, and what are good and bad qualities and we imitate our parents. Our children, especially in their growing years, are very impressionable. Their parents' actions are absorbed into their mindstream like a sponge. So, if we, as parents embody and reflect certain qualities, they will grow up wanting to emulate those qualities,” and these leading qualities of Ruby Khong are witnessed in her children.

KSK has worked as a life changing aspect of Ruby’s life. I realised that if I am in the position to help others, then it is my responsibility to do so. How can I sit by and enjoy myself, when others lack basic necessities and go to sleep hungry,” she says. This feeling inspires her to work every day and serve the society with a deep dedication. She then adds, These days, when I have a social engagement on Saturday nights, getting over with it, I'll immediately change into my KSK T-shirt and rush back to join my team members on the streets. In fact, now, if I miss a week, it feels like I am missing an integral part of my life!

Every night Ruby goes to bed with an essence of satisfaction at heart for she knows that at least 1,000 homeless people would go to sleep with a full stomach.
“Charity work is not an activity exclusive to materially successful people. Every single one of us have our own strengths in serving others. So please step forward to bring a ray of hope to those who need some care as we will never be totally fulfilled. There will always be something somewhere that we think is lacking or that we could have done better. I suggest just going out and doing it instead of waiting for the day or the right moment to come. By then, how many people would have been deprived of some form of help? Or worse still, it could have been too late by then,” was her message for the readers.
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