Moving 110 Christmas hampers from a Gungahlin garage bulging with donated food to the Uniting Care Early Morning Centre on Northbourne Avenue takes a lot of hands and a lot of heart.
For the second year in a row, HelpingACT’s supporters have banded together for a Christmas appeal to support Canberra’s most vulnerable.
The organisation also runs an annual winter appeal that donates to Vinnies and their year-round help ensures that the refugees and asylum seekers who connect with Companion House never go short of food. They also regularly donate food to the Vinnies night patrol.
HelpingACT is a registered charity that draws its support primarily from Canberra’s Muslim community, which is where Mohammed Ali’s garage in Gungahlin comes in.
A few years ago, the indefatigable community organiser persuaded his wife Nazeem to give up half their car space at home, creating a food station to store non-perishables. He buys canned and packaged goods on sale and has roped in community members and local businesses to assist.
“HelpingACT is funded by lots of supporters”, he says. “We have several businesses who are very generous. For example, Khawar Siddique from the Taj Agra restaurant in Dickson has just given us 100 kilos of rice and Paramount Constructions and Concreting gave us substantial assistance.”
Ali says there are a dedicated group of Canberra Muslims who come forward with goods or money and never question the need when he asks.
“I was very touched by an elderly couple who came all the way from Yarralumla when we were packing the food on Saturday morning to deliver their donation.”
The local Canberra Hindu mandir community has also reached out to help, among other friends and neighbours. Ali says that every little bit makes a difference to Canberra’s homeless and vulnerable communities, and the 100 or so refugee and asylum seeker families assisted by Companion House.
“Companion House has set up a food pantry and we’ve taken responsibility for keeping them supplied all-year round. That frees them to direct their funding towards counselling, medical services and education costs.”
Last year HelpingACT assembled 80 Christmas hampers. This year, it’s 110. A team of 20 volunteers turned out yesterday morning at 7:30 to unload the food and were warmly welcomed by the Uniting Care staff and volunteers, including Raiders player Sia Soliola.
“I always keep two months in my mind,” Ali says. “Ramadan means giving and Christmas means making vulnerable people happy. If we can find any help to give, we must do so for those who are in need.”
During winter HelpingACT is also busy collecting warm second-hand clothes for the needy. These are also donated to Vinnies and Companion House.
“This was the whole purpose of setting up HelpingACT. If you can give just a dollar a day we can help solve the problem of Canberra homelessness and support refugees,” Ali says.
“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.”
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.