I published a post the other day on abundance. Today I want to focus on the lack of it. I’m hungry must be one of the most heart wrenching words for a parent to hear when they literally have nothing with which to feed their children. Some months ago I read a story about a community in Africa. The lead image was a picture of adults digging in the dirt. Around them were children with what looked like hunks of bread in their hands. How wrong I was! The children were eating clay cakes baked for them by their mothers. They had nothing else to give them. It filled their stomachs and eased the hunger pangs. That is just so very, very wrong on so many levels!!! That they have no food.
Food wastage is a hot topic. There is widespread community outrage about how much perfectly good food is dumped when there are so many people who do not have enough. Or like those children in Africa who have none. Yet the dumping continues. Supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants and other food outlets continue to toss out enormous amounts of perfectly good food on a daily basis. Admittedly some makes its way into hungry mouths.
However there is no process in place to oversee and co-ordinate its systematic collection and distribution. Change management for this kind of initiative to succeed across the board needs to come from those in positions of power with authority and resourcing to enact and enable processes to be set in place for a sustainable, long term approach. As it stands at the moment here in Australia it is left up to individuals and charitable organisations to do the best they can. They do an outstanding job with very limited resources.
Late last year a whole bunch of celebrity chefs got together here in inner city Adelaide and cooked lunch for the public solely on food that would normally be dumped. It was done to showcase how out of date food, excess food, food deemed to be ‘unsafe’ for some reason or another, could be used to create nourishing, tasty, wholesome meals.
The hungry are often homeless. Suffer from addictions. Or mental illness. Or a disability. Or domestic violence. In Australia, to our national shame, those of Aboriginal descent outnumber others. Marginalised, disenfranchised, the homeless may not have the ability, knowledge, experience, courage or strength to seek help.
These damning fast facts came from the 2011 Australian census-
- On any given night around 1 in 200 people are homeless.
- 42% of those who are homeless are under the age of 25
- The rate of homelessness is 49 out of every 10,000 (0.5% of the population)
- 56% of those who are homeless are male, 44% are female
- 25% are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians
- 30% are born overseas
Where are homeless people staying?
- 39% in “severely” overcrowded dwellings
- 20% in supported accommodation for the homeless
- 17% in boarding houses
- 17% temporarily staying in other households
- 6% in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out
- 1% in other temporary lodgings.
Source: Homelessness Australia
I’ve been giving this issue a lot of thought recently. It came to the fore through a friend of mine. She is a busy mum of five young children. The youngest was born very prematurely and has only just recently come home from hospital. Just prior to Christmas she read a FaceBook post about homeless people and their lack of food in her local community. It galvanised her into action. With her baby strapped to her body, she cooked and delivered 100 meals and individual cakes to a homeless shelter on Christmas day. Her family does not celebrate Christmas. However, she chose to support and respect the culture and tradition of this country in which she lives. She continues to cook meals on a weekly basis. Her single original act has mushroomed in three weeks to an involvement of over 3000 with a small group collecting and delivering the donated foods. Today she is beginning the co-ordination of a meal train. It will provide hot meals to the sick elderly who have no family and have recently been discharged from hospital. She already has 80 volunteers who will each take a turn every 80 days to cook and deliver meals. Her reward for her efforts? Heartfelt thanks from those who have food in their belly. She, and others like her, do not seek or want recognition or publicity for themselves.
When I was doing my research for this post, I came across a local blog. It too is a story of people being galvanised into action to fill a desperate need. One act of kindness towards a homeless person has led to a group of people helping the Adelaide homeless with care packages. This is their blog link – Helping Adelaide’s Homeless
In Ottawa, Canada, Gotta find a home blogs about his work with volunteer teams who ‘walk alongside the poor and homeless in the downtown core’. This street outreach in 2012 connected with 7,672 individuals on the street. Of these 2,735 were young people. His book Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People tells their stories. It is raw. It is inspiring. It is heartfelt. It is moving.
Confessions of a soup van volunteer in Sydney says ‘ Each night is a privilege to serve. We are privileged to be able to share.’ He has been sharing, serving and caring for over 40 years.
Last, but by no means least, are those who share stories of their journey, pain and grief through words. In the hope that those doing the hard yards will find comfort and strength in knowing they are not alone. That there is hope. That the emotional rollercoaster ride is part of the process. That there is recovery and help. This kind of raw sharing is courageous. It too is love in action. One such person is the owner of this blog Making it write.
I tell these stories because they have touched my heart. I know there are many more such stories out there. It is love in action. Thank you. May they, those with whom they walk, and all the others like them, be abundantly blessed.
© Raili Tanska