It’s on again, #HampersofHope 2021. Craig Foster has his playlist cranking through the PA system in Gumbramorra Hall… lots of seasonal hits from Maria Carey to Bing Crosby, and right now a double whammy from Ella Fitzgerald singing ‘Sleigh Ride’ followed by Elton John doing ‘Step Into Christmas’. A lot of people here say it’s the first time they have felt the vibe in any real way, and it’s not just the music or the nearness of the approaching day that is affecting them.
#HampersofHope is Addi Road’s week of creating special one-off gift hampers for people who have been doing it tough across the year. In reality many have been doing it tough for much longer than that, the pandemic only heightening their struggles. Others have found themselves suddenly beached in a very different world to the one they were used to, caught up in job losses or cuts to their casual employment and working conditions, struggling with massive financial pressures and mental health issues. Come Christmas time they just want to feel they have a safe home and a moment to be kind to their families and themselves.
We have a parade of corporate supporters helping us out all week during #HampersofHope with donations and hands-on assistance packing the hampers. Today staff from Bendigo Bank, Sanitarium, and the civil engineering group GHD are all here shoulder-to-shoulder with a group school children and their teacher from Amity College in Prestons. They are being helped by our wonderful staff and our more usual team of inspiring volunteers. Rosanna Barbero, Craig Foster, Michelle Fleming and Yiana Roumeliotis are meanwhile handling the logistics of day, which means everything from guiding a visit by City of Sydney CEO Monica Barone to instructing people on how to wrap the hampers up, not to mention weaving some order from the affable starting chaos of the morning.
Everything from essential food items to treats like chocolates and biscuits – and gifts like team caps donated from the Sydney Swans – are being included. A truck from Woolworths arrives with Christmas puddings and madeira cake. As it’s unloaded Craig Foster notes how strangely easy it has been getting support. A case of good will making things happen against the odds and any difficulties. “”All the elements for the week have come together quickly. A lot of very big corporates have got involved. You only have to look around to see what is happening. Simply because so many people want to do so much more this year.”
Shamara, the school captain at Amity College, speaks on behalf of her fellow students and says “it’s wonderful. It’s really fun. And heart-warming for us all to be here, especially after the lockdowns, to be making things together for people at Christmas”.
Uncle Les from Kinchela Boys Home arrives. “So what’s going on here?” he asks, expecting the more usual set-up of the Addi Road Food Relief Hub as its been operating over this last year and previous. He is the first of our community partners witness our #HampersofHope in action. Uncle Les steps up to the microphone and gives the volunteers a very personal take on things. “This is a really cool place,” he says. “It’s got a good feeling.” Then he half-jokes with everyone in a way that is ultimately very serious that “Aboriginal people have been self-isolating for over 250 years… but these kind parcels, the love that you share, it’s like a breath of fresh air.”
Soon Ruth from The Connection is here. Her organisation works with people dealing with mental health issues, and supports them in trying to get housing or puzzle their way through the NDIS system. Carlene from the Glebe Youth Centre, here with Uncle Les, speaks to everyone about her own history and working with indigenous elders and youth, concentrating on “well-being and getting our young people in the right direction.”
Dulce Munoz, Addi Road’s Outreach Co-ordinator and the powerhouse behind Mums4Refugees makes it clear how closely bonded her work with the two organisations is. “The bigger picture is hope,” she says. “Hope is the perfect solution for unhappiness. It’s the fuel for resistance. It binds us together. We normally do essential food hampers here. But this time of year is when we do a little bit more. COVID was, and still is affecting everyone. We’re all in the same storm but we have different boats, and some are really struggling still. Coming here I get to see the best of Australia, people who wake up early to pack hampers. People who give so much.”