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Filipino woman feeds fellow migrants in need

A Filipino woman in Dubai is feeding dozens of migrants each day.

Despite being unemployed herself, Feby Dela Peña is adamant on helping others.


In the sweltering heat of the late afternoon in Dubai, Feby Dela Peña arrives with 200 free meals of rice, fried fish and boiled eggs.   The 34-year-old Filipina mother of three is unemployed and relies on her husband's modest income from a sales job. But when she saw people lining up for free meals one night outside her building, she decided to use whatever money her family had to help out.
This is the first time in 12 years of living in Dubai that she has seen Filipinos like herself standing in line for a free meal. 
"Life is so hard and they don't have anyone to depend on," Dela Peña says. "If I stop this, many people will stop eating," she adds. 
As with most migrant workers in Dubai, the family lives in a shared apartment with 11 other housemates. Some of them also chipped in when they heard of her plan. 
"We're poor to be honest," says Dela Peña, but adds "it's not a reason for me not to help, you know?"
On the first two days, she used the money she had cobbled together to buy 30 frozen chickens to cook and distribute with rice. It did not take long for word to spread on social media. People began reaching out, dropping off cartons of eggs and bags of rice to help.
Then, an influential Emirati blogger gave her 10,000 dirhams ($2,700) to keep the effort going. For the third straight week, her children's wagon is used to wheel down the meals each day at 3:00 p.m. Some people walk 45 minutes each way for the free meal. While most people lining up hail from the Philippines, the crowd also includes Africans, South Asians and others. Cooking 200 meals a day is a massive undertaking, especially with three children— a six year-old, a toddler and a baby — at home. Dela Peña plans to keep cooking the free meals until people stop giving her what she needs to make the food.
She's nervous, though, that authorities in Dubai could stop or fine her for violating some law here or there on public gatherings or the distribution of food.
Despite promises by the Philippine government to help overseas workers with a one-time cash assistance and despite a nationwide "10 million meals" initiative by the government of the United Arab Emirates to feed the poor, countless people are struggling to secure their next meal.

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