As the ALS ice bucket challenge reaches ubiquity on social media, one man from North York has decided to raise awareness for another cause in midtown Toronto.
Instead of videotaping himself pouring ice-cold water over his head for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Sam Rifaat seeks to bring attention to hunger. He took the Rice Bucket Challenge that was started by Manju Latha Kalanidhi in Hyderabad, which requires participants to give a meal of rice to someone in need.
Rifaat enlisted midtown friend Bunny Gill to tape his act of kindness at Yonge and Eglinton in late August. The video, which features Rifaat giving a packaged chicken and rice meal to Gordon Brown, has so far received nearly 1,500 shares on Facebook.
“I’m always helping out different non-profits and organizations, globally wherever I’ve lived,” he says.
He’s not against the ALS challenge but the wasting of water bothered him as “I’ve been to countries where [clean] water is a major, major problem,” he says.
“And all of a sudden I saw this lady from India who started the Rice Bucket Challenge, and then I just wanted to convey the message to the citizens in the city I’m living in as well as globally.”
Rifaat is the CEO of Assist Toronto, an organizations that helps people in need. He has also worked for the United Nations in the past.
“The amount of people that die of hunger, it’s an accumulation that’s higher than AIDS, TB and Malaria,” he says, adding that he’s also worked with food banks in the past.
Gordon Brown, who sells Outreach papers at the corner of Yonge and Eglinton can be seen around the intersection outside of Tim Hortons or Starbucks with his familiar black baseball cap and grey beard, did not expect the act of kindness but appreciated it.
“I drove a truck for 30 years, and I got all busted up, so this helps,” he said. “I spent a year and a half in a Winnipeg hospital. The doctors put me back together with nuts and bolts, pins and screws, so I’m coming back to reality, finally.
“It’s taken a long time.”
Brown is not homeless, adding he lives on Davisville Avenue, and he’s honest if he does not want or need food.
“If I look at the meal, and I don’t like it, I’m honest with them, and that’s what they like,” he said.
Rifaat came across that candor in the people he offered food to as well.
“I came across a few people who said, I just had a little food, I’m not hungry, so maybe you can give it to somebody else who is hungry right now,” he said. “To me, I salute these people for being fairly honest.”