22 December 2021

Big-hearted Garry Malhotra looks back on the year he lent a hand (or a few) to those in need

| Lottie Twyford
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Helping Hands site

What started as a Facebook post has grown to help even more people. Photo: Garry Malhotra.

When lockdown hit, every Canberran was affected differently.

While many turned inward to protect themselves, their loved ones and the community, others reached out on community noticeboards to see if there was something they could do to help.

Garry Malhotra was one of the latter. A simple Facebook post offering help to people who needed food quickly led to one of lockdown’s biggest and cheeriest ‘good news’ stories.

Mr Malhotra and his team of volunteers dished up thousands of free meals to locals in need. They’ve now opened a permanent facility in Narrabundah to serve as the charity’s HQ.

He’s just glad he could do his bit.

As for 2022, Mr Malhotra wants to continue his good work, although he wishes there wasn’t such a need for his services in the first place.

The moment that defined the year: When I realised how much of a need for food there was in the ACT community.

Initially, when I made a post on Facebook asking if anyone was in need of food assistance, I expected only a couple of responses, but on the first day, I received more than 800 requests.

People in a kitchen

When lockdown started, Garry and his team began delivering thousands of meals to those in need. Photo: Garry Malhotra.

The biggest lesson I learnt: On a similar note, it was learning there are many people in the ACT – especially the elderly and disabled living on Centrelink payments – who need a safe place to sleep and assistance with their food, even when they aren’t affected by lockdowns.

READ ALSO Garry Malhotra’s free meals continue, now into the thousands every day

What 2021 taught me about leadership: Again, it was when lockdown was announced, just seeing the effect that had on our staff, particularly on our students with disabilities and international students.

We had to reach out and support them emotionally and with food during a difficult time.

The highlight of the year: Personally, it was learning that I was going to become a father again, with my second child due in February.

Professionally, it was either seeing all of our students about to graduate after a long and strange year of COVID-19 and remote learning or else seeing our disability students go from being isolated and unable to communicate face-to-face to working together again.

Seeing the smiles on their faces and their eagerness to return to class when lockdown lifted.

The hardest thing that happened this year: Telling staff and students of the announced lockdown and seeing their faces – many broke down crying, others just looked lost and did not know what to do.

"Stay at home" road sign

During lockdown, Canberrans began looking forward to the CHO and Ms Stephen-Smith’s daily shout-outs. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Something I’m proud of: As you can imagine, providing daily hot meals with the help of our great volunteers to make sure that we helped as many Canberrans as we could.

This resulted in setting up the Garry Malhotra – Ken Behrens Helping Hands charity to help people in the ACT with ongoing needs.

READ ALSO Reflecting on the good news stories that got us through lockdown

What I wish I had done differently: Honestly, nothing!

My New Year’s Eve resolution: For our charity to be able to reach out to as many people in need.

We’d also like for our workplace skills program to provide skills to our students with a disability to be able to obtain and keep a job.

What to expect from 2022: Maybe it’s more of something I’m hoping for, but that no one in the ACT has to go without food or a place to sleep.

To find out more about Garry Malhotra’s work, visit Garry Malhotra – Ken Behrens Helping Hands.

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