Kazi Mannan may have grown up in Pakistan in poverty, but that didn't mean his family wasn't doing everything they could to help those in need.
"My mother taught us if we have a little bit extra, we must share and care for others," he explains.
Mannan's family back in Pakistan. Photo courtesy of Mannan.
That lesson stayed with him long after he grew up and moved to Washington D.C. He managed to land a job at a gas station in Northeast D.C., and while he was there, he couldn't help but notice how many homeless people were looking for food in trash cans. As someone who's personally familiar with the struggles of poverty, he felt for them deeply, and knew he must find a way to help.
"I said: 'one day, if I ever have a restaurant, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to open the door for them.'"
So that's exactly what Mannan did. Once he'd made enough money, he bought a small restaurant at the corner of 11th and K Street NW, just blocks away from the White House. It was decades old and needed work, but to someone who grew up without plumbing or electricity, the endeavor wasn't so daunting.
On the same day he opened his to the public in 2013, Mannan also invited all the homeless people he could find to have a meal there for free. While they were somewhat dubious of his offer at first, when he kept his word and invited them to come back whenever they needed a meal, they embraced his kindness.
Mannan with a homeless man he serves. Photo via Upworthy.
“They’re the nicest people in town," says one homeless man who frequents the restaurant. "They feed us for free and take care of us.”
While it may not sound like a sustainable idea, the restaurant is still open five years later. Last year, they served 16,000 free meals on top of the meals they serve to paying customers.
And they don't just cater to homeless people in the restaurant. If business is slow, they set up a cart out in the park, and invite them to come and eat out there as well.
Mannan's also upping the altruistic ante in other ways, too: He has a goal of increasing the number of free meals they serve to those in need by 6,000 every year from here on out.
"This is my home, and I feel that I should participate in the community," explains Mannan. "Sharing your food with others is a joy."
Photo via Upworthy.
He's not the only one working at the restaurant who feels that way. His brother is helping out as chef, and his oldest son serves there when he's home from college for the holidays. Needless to say, this proclivity for extending a hand to the community is a family trait.
It all comes back to Mannan's mother, who would always provide food and shelter for people in need, even when the family themselves had very little.
When you treat strangers like family, they become family in a way. That idea fuels Mannan everyday to keep his restaurant going.
Learn more about Mannan's story below: