Generosity and community are unfolding as we eat.
It’s a chilly Tuesday night. Ten minutes earlier, I parked my car down the street and watched the crowd from Karma Kitchen’s 6 pm sitting slowly leave Daana restaurant and drive away into the night.
At 8, we filed gratefully into the warm restaurant and took our seats at long communal tables. We are locals, regulars, public servants, and people from Canberra businesses, sitting alongside each other, being served platters of food by waiters who look a little irregular.
The standard black and white uniform is absent; our service team wear navy shifts with a green insignia embroidered onto them. I lean forward to get a better look. It reads ‘Pets in the Park’.
The realization that the Pets in the Park team is our wait staff tonight humbles us.
Sanjay and Sunita have made this, their ninth Karma Kitchen event, all about Pets in the Park.
Pets in the Park is an organization run by volunteer veterinary professionals who work to improve the wellbeing of the homeless by taking care of the basic medical needs of their animal companions.
The team carry out regular preventative care, health checks, vaccinations, and flea treatment. Sometimes the team conduct surgery clinics. A regular clinic costs the team about $300 while the surgical clinic costs around $1000.
The theme of tonight’s menu is animal characters from the big screen, but the shared meal is authentic Southern Indian fare. The dishes fill our table. If a platter begins to empty, a waiter fills it again. It is generous tasty food.
‘Garfield’s nibbles’ sounds humble on the menu, pan-grilled chicken with capsicum and onion, but the delicate spices that the chicken and vegetables are fried in add an exotic flavour without spicy heat. Nibbles is the perfect name; we keep going back for more.
Shere Khan’s feast is lamb in a dreamy creamy cashew Korma.
The vegan chickpea dish is my favourite main, the chickpeas cooked al dente in fragrant gravy.
A large screen runs a slideshow, featuring goofy close-ups of the dogs treated by the PITP team and giving us a glimpse into a typical day in the life of a PITP volunteer.
A silent auction is live.
“Sanjay and Sunita have deep pockets,” PITP photographer Glenn Braithwaite tells us in a short tribute after dessert. He thanks them for their hospitality, generosity and for using their restaurant as a vehicle to change lives.
By the end of the evening, 108 guests have eaten at Karma Kitchen. Daana donates 50 per cent from the night, which comes to $2,518.76. Along with the funds raised in the silent auction, the total fundraising for the evening comes to $3647.76!
Glen Braithwaite tells me that this amount will cover the costs of twelve months of walk-in-clinics. This funding will also enable PITP to reach out to potential clients in Woden, Tuggeranong and Queanbeyan.
“The winning recipe here,” he tells me, “was a combination of a worthy charity, amazing volunteers, a great venue with delicious food, and lastly, fantastic public message
Daana is at 83 Theodore St in Curtin. It is open for dinner Monday – Friday from 5:30 pm. Lunch Saturday from 12 pm – 2 pm.