Kazi Mannan, owner of the Sakina Halal Grill in Washington, D.C., has been serving meals to the homeless free of charge since he opened in 2013. In the midst of the pandemic, his restaurant suffered a huge loss in revenue and he reached out with a plea for help by setting up a GoFundMe, thankfully-the world listened. People from all over the world including Bangladesh, London, Haiti and elsewhere made donations. So far $328, 441 has been raised, surpassing his $250,000 goal.
Mannan learned to cook from his mother growing up in Pakistan. She also taught him the importance of helping others. “She would always have an extra plate to give to the neighbor. I prayed to God that if I ever have a restaurant, I will announce on the first day that I will bring in the homeless people”, said Kazi. “You can come in hundreds; I will never say no… you’re welcome to eat free with respect and dignity. We will treat you the same.”
Mannan kept that promise but was heartbroken in July when he could no longer afford to serve free meals. “It just hurts,” Mannan said. “Like, you know, it’s in you that you wanted to give, but your pockets are empty.” He never asks for help but when he realized the uncertainty of the pandemic meant he would have to consider closing his restaurant for good, he took a leap of faith.
Mannan’s kindness for feeding thousands of homeless at his restaurant was recognized by a local news outlet in 2018. Sakina Halal Grill looks like your typical high-end restaurant located just blocks from the White House. During the lunchtime rush hour, many customers flock to the grill for the all you can eat buffet of authentic Pakistani-Indian food. From the day he opened the doors, he welcomes all people, whether they can pay for the meal or not and he hopes to continue to be able to do that.
His latest update on his GoFundMe reflects the type of person he is. “ I am speechless and overwhelmed by your support that my human family saw someone falling and they all came together to help me. This is the type of the world I have been preaching for the last 6 years. Where someone falls and without judgment we help them. You are all God angels on this earth. I pray that God sends countless blessings your way. You made dreams alive again. I will make sure we use your donation to make a difference in other people lives. You all stay blessed. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Stay tuned for the next update!”