Naylar Uisa knows what it’s like to be homeless. As a child, she was in and out of foster homes, sometimes ending up sleeping on the streets of Auckland, New Zealand.
“We could go days on the streets without anything to eat,” she told Fairfax Media.
That life is now behind the 30-year-old married mother-of-two, but instead of turning her back on the streets she’s devoted herself to helping feed and clothe those in need in her West Auckland community.
“It’s a bit selfish to kinda find a way out and not go back to help,” she said.
Three years ago, she started giving away her own possessions to those who needed them. Then her family started saving NZ$60 (US$44) a week from their wages to pay for food and supplies. Eventually, more people started donating funds to her.
“At first, it was just stuff from our house. I didn’t think we needed two or three blankets for each person, so thought we should give those away,” Uisa said in a video interview with Stuff.co.nz below.
From that one kind act, a massive force for good was unleashed. Now, with the help of her friends and church members, her small charity Reaching Out helps hundreds of homeless people every month.
Reaching Out hosts regular “feeding the community” events, where she sets up tables on the street to hand out hot food, drinks, and clothing, and people are invited to take what they need.
“Sometimes we are so focused on ourselves that we forget that what we’ve learnt, we can use that and help others move on,” she said, referring back to her own life experience.
Remembering what it’s like to have an empty stomach, she feels deeply sad if there isn’t enough food to go around.
“If the food finishes and more people are still coming, it can be so hard to turn people away. Sometimes we buy pizzas, or whatever is close by, so they don’t have to go without,” she said.
Her belief in sharing others’ burdens keeps her going.
The number of homeless people has increased in Auckland in recent years, and demand for Uisa’s services has grown too. Now she is trying to raise money to buy a van and food trailer so they can reach more people.
Ultimately, she hopes to open a drop-in center to provide even better services to homeless and vulnerable people in the community.
She believes everyone has it in their heart to help others, and it doesn’t take much to make a difference.
“If you have like 5 minutes just to make an impact on that person, that 5 minutes, they will probably take it as the whole world,” she said, fighting back tears. “So if one person keeps doing that for another person you can change the world basically.”
Watch an interview with Uisa in the video below.
To donate to Reaching Out, visit their givealittlepage here.