Food and Drink

   

Food for Thought

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There’s a saying I like which goes ‘a bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives the rose’. For me, this is what volunteering is all about. Occasionally I get the feeling I’m becoming too selfish and the need to do a good thing for someone else arises. Ironically, another saying that ‘when you are good to others, you are best to yourself’ – suggests that maybe I’m just selfishly seeking to make myself happy in a way that doesn’t appear selfish at all.

Nevertheless, a friend suggested I contact the Edmund Rice Centre Amberley who regularly take a food van to feed people in need of St. Kilda. I met up with coordinator Josh Hill and a group of Year 12 Parade College students to discuss our perceptions about homelessness and hear some sobering statistics.

People were already waiting for us when we arrived at the infamous Gatwick Hotel, even playfully chastising us for being late. When I stepped out of the van it occurred to me that I’d never spoken to people in this situation before, and the marginalisation suddenly seemed glaring. I felt vulnerable not knowing the first thing about what these people were dealing with, so I decided to just listen to them. While the boys set about making hot dogs and sandwiches, I handed out bananas and started chatting.

I made eye contact with one happy-looking Czech man as he removed the crusts from his sandwich and threw them in the bin. We grinned at each other and he revealed his dislike for crusts unless the bread was toasted. What I found interesting was how many different personalities and stories there were. In fact I had an interesting conversation with a lady with schizophrenia, and although I found it very hard to follow, we still managed to share a few laughs about One Direction.

In the de-brief Josh admitted that homelessness may not be the most glamorous thing to advocate for but he loves it, which was clear to see as he laughed and joked with members of the community. At the end of the night, I was buzzing with new thoughts and feelings about my experience. While I feel I could have offered more, I was assured that even polite conversation can help.

If you have the desire to volunteer but never seem to get around to it, you may just need some inspiration. You could start by donating clothes to an op-shop, dropping change into a collection tin, buying a copy of The Big Issue, donating blood or even by becoming an organ donor.

The next level would be volunteering your time and skills, and opening yourself up to a new experience. You could be a student mentor, a friend to the elderly, sign up to the Big Brother/Big Sister program, save the Earth by doing conservation work… the possibilities are endless.

So many organisations around Melbourne need volunteers, just like the food van (who by the way also welcome non-perishable food donations, clothes and blankets.) If you’d like to get involved email Shauna Scott at shauna@amberley.org.au or explore online for other rewarding options.


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