Better together: a tale of two volunteers

Jennie and Nans both roll up their sleeves to give back but their journeys to FareShare have been very different.

Jennie is a die-hard volunteer who gives her time to numerous charities and has supported FareShare for more than nine years. Nans came to Australia as an asylum seeker and was introduced to FareShare by Nans to help her connect to the community. The kitchen companions sum up this year’s National Volunteer Week theme – better together

“There are people constantly asking for help,” says Jennie who also volunteers at St Vincent de Paul and Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. “Mortgages are going up. Utilities are going up. Food prices are going up. I encountered a woman the other day who burst into tears. She didn’t think she would ‘ever be the type who would need relief’.

“I met a nice gentleman recently who has no ID, so he can’t get any Centrelink or support. He’s been living out in the streets for 30 years. That’s the thing. Your life can turn on a pin. Any one of us can have everything, only to suddenly fall through the cracks and need support.”

When it comes to FareShare, Jennie keeps coming back for numerous reasons. She loves the social aspect (she feels like she’s hanging out with aunties and siblings) and food insecurity is one of the issues she holds most dear. 

“I’ve encountered in past volunteering roles, people turning their noses up at the food on offer. They’d look at the raw ingredients and not know what to do. But they liked FareShare meals because they were ready. 

“Before Covid, we used to hand out FareShare meals in our Vinnies soup kitchens, and I saw how receptive people were to them.”

Jennie met Nans as part of Vinnies’ service, which helps give out food, furniture, vouchers, bedding etc. to people who need it. Along the way, they became friends and Jennie learnt more of Nans’ tragic story. 

After facing unspeakable trauma, Nans fled her home country and sought asylum here, only to wind up in detention for eight years. To this day, she’s unable to work or study, endures a curfew, receives no support.

“Australians don’t like us, people like me.” Nans has repeatedly told Jennie.

To counter this belief, and to help her meet new people and learn new skills, Jennie suggested Nans try volunteering at FareShare. The rest is history. From her bubbly nature to her awesome work ethic, Nans is now firmly part of team FareShare!

“I’m so happy to be part of this community,” Nans says. “I enjoy the process of cooking and creating something amazing. It feels meditative and therapeutic to chop and cut vegetables as it keeps me in the moment. And it’s been good learning how to safely handle kitchen equipment and a bit about cooking.

“It’s the best place for me to meet and bond with new friends. It’s a pure joy, a break from everything else.”

“We all think she’s lovely,” Jennie says. “Plus, it suits her to the ground. She’s listening to the language, participating in conversations, learning skills, and it gives her a purpose. I only wish she’d slow down a bit because she’s making all us oldies look bad!”

To us, seeing Nans and Jennie in the FareShare kitchen chatting and laughing with each other, the other volunteers and the cooks is what volunteering is all about. Happy National Volunteer Week everyone. 

Learn more about volunteering in Melbourne and Brisbane here. 

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