Unemployed, struggling mom cooks hundreds of meals for migrants

Feby Dela Peña is a 34-year-old mother of three. After she lost her job, her family had to start solely relying on her husband’s income, but the hardship hasn’t impacted Dela Peña’s generosity one bit.

One day Dela Peña saw people lining up for free meals outside of her building. She knew she wanted to help even if it meant using the family’s limited funds. Dela Peña has lived in Dubai for 12 years, but it’s the first time she saw other Filipinos struggling like this.

“Life is so hard and they don’t have anyone to depend on,” Dela Peña told the Associated Press. “If I stop this, many people will stop eating.”

Like most migrant workers in the country, the family shares an apartment with 11 other flatmates. Even her roommates chipped in to help her efforts.

“We’re poor to be honest. It’s not a reason for me not to help, you know?” Dela Peña said.

She used the money to buy 30 frozen chickens to cook with rice for the first two days. But then word got out on social media and people took a cue from her kindness and dropped off eggs and rice, and one influential blogger even gave her $2,700.

When the Associated Press caught up with Dela Peña she was on her third week of serving food. The mother prepared 200 meals that some walked 45 minutes in Dubai’s sweltering heat to get.

While she fears she could be charged with violating the country’s public gathering or food distribution laws, she doesn’t want to stop. As long as people drop off supplies to make the meals, she’ll do it.

The Phillippine government promised overseas workers one-off cash payments, while the United Arab Emirates launched a “10 million meals” initiative to feed the poor. Nevertheless, thousands are still struggling to cover the basic costs of food.

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