It’s 2.37am and a message pings through on Addi Road’s Instagram feed. Someone is awake late into the night, and they want to communicate with us. We won’t see the message from the Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) Hospital in Camperdown till the following morning. “I am a midwife on the Postnatal floor,” it says. “I opened the fridge [here] and found delicious falafels. Thank you so much. Feeling the love.”
Simple and heartfelt, it comes in response to an initiative we’re involved in called ‘Nourishing the Frontlines at RPA’. Along with chef Kylie Kwong and the South Eveleigh community of which she is an integral part, Addi Road has joined forces in supplying 50 delicious meals every Friday to nurses, doctors, midwives and staff on the night shift.
‘Nourishing the Frontlines at RPA’ targets a particular department and treats each of them across a ten-week campaign, offering bespoke meals to raise spirits and recognise their work. “It’s only a small contribution, I know,’ Kylie says. “50 meals. But when I see the photos from the nurses at RPA and receive the messages of thanks, it fills my heart with joy.”
Funded by South Eveleigh, ‘Nourishing the Frontlines at RPA’ is into its third week as this story is being written. Addi Road sends our driver Mark Locsei with a refrigerated van across to South Eveleigh for the afternoon pickup and RPA delivery.
The menu draws from Kylie’s Lucky Kwong restaurant, Wally Mostafa’s Bekya Egyptian, Hanny Tang and Hoang Nguyen’s Eat Fuh, and Tom Sangpoowong’s Pepper Seeds Thai. Matt Whiley from Re adds to the South Eveleigh meals with his non-alcoholic Peach & Mandarin Americano soda.
Mark Locsei tells us how grateful the response from the RPA is each time he arrives. “Just through seeing that someone is thinking about their well-being and doing something for them.” He laughs and says, “the biggest response is to when I open up the van. They can’t believe how good it smells! And how delicious it looks. The hand-delivery of food into their lives, food that doesn’t come from a factory, they really appreciate it.”
‘Nourishing the Frontlines at RPA’ is just a way for all of us to come together and say we hear you, we see you.
In a message posted online Kylie Kwong feels the love this week in an especially meaningful way. “Lucky has an extremely close connection with midwives. He and I will never ever forget their hyper-sensitivity, nurturing kind hearts, gentleness and deeply compassionate ways during what was a very dark experience when Lucky was born.”
Kwong and her wife Nell lost their baby boy Lucky in stillbirth almost a decade ago. Never forgotten; with them always. “Midwives are extraordinary people. I feel particularly connected to them, that is for sure. Lucky Kwong was named after my son. It honours him. Lucky Kwong wants to be a force for good.”
Kylie understands the feelings of loss and grieving that riff through our society in the wake of the pandemic and its presence in our lives. She also sees “a real practical line between food-health-safety” in how we can make a better, happier community.
Our own relationship with Kylie Kwong was forged when she began volunteering at the Addi Road Food Relief Hub last year, stepping up to curate culturally-appropriate emergency hampers for the diverse communities and organisations we service. An individual of deep feeling, Kylie says that “Addi Road is all about humanity. One of the greatest things for me was coming along and being a part of it during the Delta lockdown. It was life-changing for me, this wonderful connection to community.”
Of course, there is anger, too, about “the way government figures keep saying our medical health system is one of the best in the world. That it is coping. It is not coping. We know this. Our frontline medical workers are exhausted, frustrated, and overworked. I feel like their voices are not being heard and not being acknowledged by the authorities.”
“When I briefed everyone at South Eveleigh about what we were going to do they really put their heart and soul into it. They really go the extra mile preparing the food. We all feel the pain; we read about it every day; we hear personal stories about what’s happening inside. ‘Nourishing the Frontlines at RPA’ is just a way for all of us to come together and say we hear you, we see you.”