Simon Jenkinson – Volunteer of the Week, April 2017
When Simon joined our Friday morning kitchen crew in 2015 he was recently retired and was looking to do something worthwhile for the community.
For more than 30 years, Simon worked as a clinical psychologist running his own private practice specialising in drug and alcohol counselling. He finished his career working with students at the RMIT Counselling Service. Throughout his working life he had undertaken skilled volunteering but rolling up his sleeves in the FareShare kitchen was the first time he had turned his hand to unpaid manual work.
Simon with fellow volunteer and movie buff Jill
Volunteering is an important component of Simon’s “transition to retirement” plan. As well as volunteering at FareShare, he also teaches English to asylum seekers one day a week through the Brotherhood of St Laurence. He knows that transition to retirement can be challenging – especially for men whose identity is often tied up very closely with their work. Two years down the track, Simon believes he has adjusted to being “retired”.
Simon especially enjoys the social dimension of his Friday morning shift in the FareShare kitchen which he shares with other book and film buffs. Simon is a mad Lord of the Rings fan – he loved the book and the movies. In fact he loves all SciFi movies and regards 2001 A space Odyssey as a timeless classic.
Reflecting on volunteering at FareShare, Simon feels a real sense of loyalty to his fellow crew. He is cognisant that every task he completes benefits those in need. He has done a lot of volunteering over his lifetime and believes FareShare is outstanding in organising and managing our volunteers. He likes the simple system we have for notifying an absence and appreciates that every contact he has with us is acknowledged.
Thanks Simon – we appreciate your loyalty to the Friday crew and to FareShare.
Huong Le – Volunteer of the Week, April 2017
They say that if you want something done, ask a busy person. It’s a maxim that fits FareShare volunteer Huong Le to a tee.
Huong spends her working life in the skies, serving as a customer services manager on long-haul Qantas flights on 747 and A330 aircraft. On any given week she could be in South Africa, South America, the US or Asia.
Huong (left) with fellow volunteer & ex-Qantas colleague Elizabeth
Naturally she loves travelling and says she cannot sit still. And if her demanding job is not enough, she is also studying part-time for a Juris Doctor in Law and her Masters in Aviation Management.
Huong was born in Saigon and fled by boat to Australia in 1975 with her family. They were rescued by a US ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after seven days at sea.
Huong and her family spent four months in a refugee camp in Guam before they settled in Melbourne when Huong was just 10 and English a foreign language.
“We didn’t have a lot when we were seeking refuge,” said Huong who remembers feeling hungry and grateful to the US Navy personnel who gave them dried biscuits, congee, two- minute noodles and a little bit of water.
The experience seems to have sparked a real passion in Huong to ‘give back’ especially around food. Her favourite kitchen task is cutting meat.
Huong loves volunteering on Wednesday nights and enjoys her interaction with fellow volunteers who are all “lovely and interesting”. She was also delighted to bump into former colleague and fellow volunteer Elizabeth Sinclair (see photo) while on a make-up shift one Monday. Their encounter marked the 50th anniversary of Elizabeth’s first day at Qantas where according to Huong she is regarded as a bit of a legend.
FareShare is deeply grateful to Huong for making FareShare volunteering part of her life journey.
When single mum Tania was given a community-based order, she didn’t imagine any good would come of it. But after undertaking her service in the FareShare kitchen things changed.
Tania in the FareShare kitchen: “I can’t wait to work with you again.”
Now Tania has signed up as a regular volunteer with her sights set on reviving her career in hospitality after 15 years of unemployment.
“It’s inspired me to get back into hospitality full-time,” said Tania who began working shifts in the FareShare kitchen last April as part of an innovative collaboration between FareShare and the Department of Justice and Regulation.
“I was a bit scared at first but now I’m bouncing before I even get through the FareShare doors,” said Tania. “The chefs are amazing.”
Tania, who has experience waitressing and once worked at McDonald’s organising kids’ parties, hopes she can assist others on community-based orders at FareShare now that she has completed her 130 hours of service.
She fully understands how some families struggle to make ends meet. “I’ve fallen on hard times recently and had to use food banks so I know what it’s like.
“I’ve packaged food at FareShare that I’ve actually eaten myself when I needed it at desperate times. I had no idea where it came from before.”
Now Tania, is keen to give back and restart her career.
“I’ve loved the hospitality industry since I was a child. You have put the fire back in my belly to work with food again.”
The feeling is mutual. FareShare kitchen manager Chris Mitchison said Tania was a fantastic asset to the kitchen. “Tania has been a pleasure to work with from day one. She’s hard working and keen to learn. The perfect volunteer!”
Tania was one of dozens of people serving court or parole orders who has increased the number of meals available for the hungry by working in the FareShare Kitchen on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons. The program is being extended this year.
On the eve of National Volunteer Week, FareShare has paid tribute to the thousands of people who volunteer each year with a video.
FareShare rescues surplus food and cooks 5000 free, nutritious meals a day for charities with the support of 750 regular volunteers. Another 3000 secondary students and 3000 corporate volunteers help out in our kitchen each year.
“Volunteers are the heart of FareShare,” said CEO Marcus Godinho. “With our ratio of 50 regular volunteers to every staff member, we couldn’t exist without them. From the time we set out baking a few hundred pies a week, to cooking more than one million meals a year today, we have been entirely dependent upon volunteers.
“Volunteers drive the vans that rescue and deliver food, prepare meals under the guidance of experienced chefs, grow vegetables in our kitchen gardens and assist with a range of professional and administrative tasks.”
They include people at all stages of life – from students to retirees – with the majority finding time around their employment arrangements. Nearly two thirds also volunteer with other organisations.
Why do they do it? According to our April 2016 volunteer survey, the biggest motivation is the desire to give back to the community. Asked for their primary motivation, 42 per cent said they “felt very fortunate and want to help others who are less so,” 30 per cent were “motivated to help feed people who go without” and 18 per cent were “passionate about food rescue.”
Overall more than 99 per cent said they would recommend volunteering at FareShare where there are currently 350 people on the waiting list for kitchen shifts.
“Volunteering at FareShare is fun, rewarding and sociable,” said volunteer manager Rosie Kelly. “Most volunteer roles require no special skills and empower people to make a tangible contribution to tackling food waste and hunger in our community.”