An afternoon volunteering at the centre opened my eyes to one of the great practical community initiatives that support people in need in Auckland. I must admit when Sunday dawned a stunningly sunny day, I had a moment’s hesitation about my decision to volunteer at the City Mission Homeless Community Centre but by the end of the afternoon I was really glad I had helped out.
I was one of a team of four AUT staff to spend the afternoon helping prepare and serve food for rough sleepers that come to the community centre for meals and a break from the streets. We left the centre at 6pm, weary but very satisfied with our afternoon’s work, and full of awe for the people that keep the City Mission centre functioning.
Rachael Marsters, who organised our group, says she was outside her comfort zone initially, but that uncertainty was quickly dispelled.
“Initially I felt a little unsure of what to do and how to be. But after the induction it was all good. The staff were awesome and it was really great working with other colleagues. By the end I was really relaxed and felt I had done something very productive.”
The afternoon started with an induction and quick tour by delightful team leader Rose Harrop. Then it was all hands on deck for the next five hours in the kitchen and dining area under the friendly but watchful eye of Joeli, the duty chef.
Fortunately for us it was a quieter day so we had time to settle into our tasks with a few laughs and little stress. We chopped, tidied, washed and cleaned, before serving up dollops of tasty food, including chop suey, pasta bake and coleslaw from large meal warmers.
For a short period of time the line of hungry diners seemed never ending (seconds were the norm) and the food in the warmers were regularly replenished. But eventually everyone was settled at tables enjoying food, warmth and company. We probably served 50 to 60 people – and the numbers can be triple that.
As heart warming as it was to see how much the diners appreciated the food, it was also heart warming to see the food contributions made to the Mission – often out of the blue. A green grocer dropped off four boxes of fresh, unsullied fruit – perfect for a fruit salad, says the chef - and so we chopped and diced the pineapples, apples, oranges, melon and bananas.
A church group arrived with four huge containers of pasta and chop suey meals. Someone else arrived with boxes of veges.
Anything that can be turned into a meal is gratefully received by the kitchen staff. Anything that is non perishable is also gratefully received for food parcels that are distributed to people struggling to get food on their table at home.
The Mission staff bend over backward to make you feel welcome and you are useful – you really are – because there are plenty of activities to do.
Kelly-Aroha Huata, another of our AUT group, summed it up well for us all.
“This experience was a reminder that life is not about what you have but what you give. He aha te mea nui o te ao? he tangata! He tangata! He Tangata! What is the most important thing in this world? It is people! it is people! it is people!”
And now our call out – the Mission is always looking for volunteers and there are plenty of other activities you can help with if preparing and serving food isn’t your thing. Even better, they're keen to have a team of volunteers, so you can go along with some of your mates.
On a different site, volunteers sort food donations into food parcels that go out to single people or families in need. On an average day up to 20 parcels will be given out by Mission staff.
There were also multiple bags of clothing donations that need sifting and sorting by volunteers, so they can be distributed to rough sleepers and people needing extra help.
Contact City Mission if you are interested in any of these volunteering activities.
Written by Employability & Careers writer Angela McCarthy