Lending a helping hand comes naturally to Mohammed Ali who had all hands on deck in the garage of his home in Gungahlin on Sunday morning where hundreds of Christmas hampers were being stocked full of essentials for people in need.
And when Mohammed puts out a call to arms, an army of volunteers, including many Canberra community leaders, drop what they’re doing to chip in.
Baked beans, tuna, two-minute noodles and Coco Pops went in hampers with long-life milk, mixed lollies, tea and coffee. Five-kilogram bags of rice with lentils and vegetable oil met the needs of Muslim families with Halal requirements.
For Mohammed and the HelpingACT volunteers, it is all about making sure no one sleeps hungry in Canberra.
“I invited about 12 or so people to come and pack the hampers, but they invited their friends and soon the word was out and we have a wonderful gathering of the community here today,” Mohammed explained to Region Media on Sunday morning (13 December).
It is the third successive year HelpingACT has had the hands of the community band together.
Among the helpers were many members of Canberra’s multicultural community who joined with ACT Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee and Labor MLAs Suzanne Orr and Michael Pettersson. Newly-elected Greens MLA Rebecca Vassarotti joined Menslink CEO Martin Fisk and 666 Canberra radio breakfast presenter Lish Fejer.
This year, more than 200 bags will be sent to Havelock House, Companion House, homeless people and asylum seekers, and other vulnerable people through the Early Morning Centre on Northbourne Avenue, and students in need from the University of Canberra and Australian National University.
Items for the hampers are donated by an array of supporters of HelpingACT.
“The beauty of all this is that in the list of supporters, you will find almost every nationality there. These wonderful people have been contributing a lot,” Mohammed says.
“I’m so proud that the brotherhood of spirit is alive and well at this time of year. The Salvos and St Vinnies at Gungahlin also supplied tables and items needed to put these hampers together.”
He says he is happy to be one of many organisations making sure that people who have been unsure where their next meal is coming from have the support they need at Christmas.
“We don’t claim that we are the only organisation lending a hand, but at least we are proud that without us being there, these items might not have gotten to the grassroots of people in need.
“We are a small group but we are the basic form of contact for many people where it’s just one phone call and we’ll be there.”
The first year saw 80 HelpingACT hampers distributed. Last year it was 110. This year, it grew to 200 hampers. The army of volunteers were also catered for with a feast of middle-eastern delicacies keeping the volunteers going, along with tea, coffee and juice.
“Canberra is such an affluent city, but I’m so proud that everyone I speak to when there is a family in need of food gives without asking questions. It makes me so proud to be a Canberran. Let’s keep the flame of love and care for all who are in need alive,” Mohammed said.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or donate to the dedicated HelpingACT account: BSB 112908, account 489 279 325. If you would like to donate food year-round, call 0404 947 260 or 0423 020 313.