They stand in a circle. Working out what they have got. And what they still need.
Their accents carry across the road as they sort out their shopping before they head home. It’s a busy day at the Addi Road Food Pantry Marrickville and this group of young students emanate a bright energy that is hard to miss.
From Colombia, they explain they have “only been here three weeks”. The young man’s name is Stivison, the women Javianna, Maria, Carolina, Natalia. All of them speak English in a fitful way: mostly listening hard, nodding and smiling a lot.
Stivison acts as their defacto spokesperson. He explains they are studying English at a course in the city and looking for work. Hungry times for all of them in a new country.
“This place,” Stivison says, gesturing around him, pausing, thinking hard. “We don’t have enough money at this time. This place here… it’s a really good place.”
The group banter among themselves again. Stivison reports the mutual conversation across both sides in English and Spanish. Maria says something to him. He translates: “She says she likes coming here. She finds it really… friendly. All the staff here and the vol… the volunteers.”
The group of women speak freely in Spanish to him. Stivison nods; speaks in English again while they watch him. He holds a box of groceries up. “These things the supermarkets throw out. You rescue it and share it with everybody. This is something we all really appreciate. We wish to help the environment also.”
The fact Addi Road Food Pantry offers so much to people on a low budget is a good thing too. “Because we are all looking for a job, to be able to get food helps us. In the other big supermarket the food is expensive. We can’t buy it. We come here.”
Again, there is a huddle of conversation. Everyone nodding approval as Stivison checks in that he is saying the right things. He wants to explain how much this means to them. Touches his chest with his hand. “When we have more English and find a job, maybe in future we can come back and volunteer? We can give something you give us.”
The equation of giving is so simply put it is hard not to feel moved. The students are offered two hamper vouchers to help them out next time they shop at the Addi Road Food Pantry. Stivison holds the voucher in his hand and looks at it for quite a while.
It’s difficult to say who is really giving to who when such depth of feeling starts flowing like emotional electricity between everyone here. The Colombian students gather together for a photo outside the Food Pantry. Young and happy, mucking around and striking silly poses on a sunlit winter’s day in Marrickville. New spirits in a new place, making their way and making new friends as they go.