Addi Road Food Relief Hub is in full swing. Up on what used to be the stage of our now converted Gumbramorra Hall, a group of people are scooping rice into 600gm bags.
The woman who seems to be in charge of the rice brigade calls out, “We just hit 500!”
“Only another 100 bags to go and we are done this morning,” she says more quietly.
Why do you need to make 600 bags? “Dunno. We just do,” she laughs.
It turns out this element to Addi Road’s emergency hampers has been delegated to a family operation. Erin says her husband Jihad is usually here too, but he has gone to Oz Harvest today. “He’s the State Member for Lakemba and he got a call early this morning that they needed him.”
Erin and her two children, Yasmin (17) and Ali (14) came to help at Addi Road in Marrickville. Thanks to a host of local councils, police, community organisations and our team of volunteer drivers, the rice that Erin, Yasmin and Ali are packing into all these 600gm bags for our hampers will spread out to points east, north, south and west across the city.
“Whatever you do that is good, it will come back to you.”
Bringing her family here to volunteer regularly is “something that feels right,” Erin says. “It just feels good to give back.”
“It’s good for the kids, too, to be part of it, especially when you see what is going on, the stories you hear about what is happening out in Walgett and Wilcannia. Coming here they understand how lucky and how fortunate they are.”
As a teacher at Burwood Girls, Erin is that much more attuned to what everyone’s kids are going through during the pandemic. She also has another daughter, aged 21, who works three days a week and studies at uni, otherwise she’d be here with them too. It can be so difficult to support their hopes and dreams.
Erin points to Yasmin. “Yas is in Year 12 doing her HSC. There’s no muck-up day, no picnic, no graduation in the real world,” she says, lamenting the landmarks and celebrations her kids are missing out on after such a stressful time.
Yas chips in with a comment that “schoolies is cancelled too” as she scoops more rice into another bag and seals it. A bit more seriously, Yas says she is studying childcare through TAFE. “We haven’t been able to do any practicals.” You sense her longing for contact – and the basic negotiations that have some meaning when you’re growing up and working out what you want to do with your life.
It turns out Yas is doing Community and Family Studies as a part of her HSC. She recalls bringing donated food here a year ago from school charity drives, “but we never packed boxes like this and got to see how it all works. I’ve decided to make Addi Road my subject of study for my main assignment. Being part of things here first-hand has helped me get a feeling for what real community organisation is about.”
Yas’ brother Ali, at age 14, seems less effusive than his sister about volunteer life in the rice brigade. He just shrugs his shoulders about working at Addi Road’s Food Relief Hub, describing it flatly as “pretty good”.
But after a pause, he launches into a longer reflection that seems to come out of nowhere. “It’s nice to know you’re helping others here. And that I am using my time in a way that is improving myself.”
Improving yourself? “Yeah,” Ali says, filling another bag with grains of rice. “I feel like we’re all working together in the hall. That we are doing it for everyone… I think whatever you do that is good, it will come back to you – and keep returning again to everyone.”
And with that surprising insight from her son, Erin calls “600!”