25 July 2023

One in five struggling to make ends meet, but Canberra's 2022 Citizen of the Year has a plan to help

| James Coleman
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woman and man in kitchen

Nicole Wiggins, who manages the Early Morning Centre in Civic, with HelpingACT’s Mohammed Ali. Photo: Genevieve Jacobs.

Chances are, you’ve spotted the yellow-doored Honda driving around Canberra.

Local food relief charity HelpingACT now wants to hitch a food trailer onto the back, so they can serve more hot meals to a growing number of Canberrans feeling the pinch of rocketing costs of living.

They’re asking the public to help them raise the $45,000 needed.

HelpingACT was founded in 2018 by Mohammed Ali to provide support to members of the community suffering from poverty, sickness, domestic and family violence, misfortune or disability.

He and 50 volunteers arrange food drop-offs, stock food pantries and provide school breakfasts around the ACT, efforts which had Mr Ali commended by the Governor-General during the 2021 lockdown and named Canberra Citizen of the Year in 2022.

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Every month, HelpingACT also hosts a barbecue for homeless people outside the Early Morning Centre in Civic, as well as monthly curry lunches.

Mr Ali wants to extend this barbecue program to the deep south and north of Canberra, where there is “equal need”.

The food trailer would also be a way for HelpingACT to raise funds at festivals and markets, including the annual multicultural festivals in Canberra and Queanbeyan.

“Our experience is we can always get about $500 out of that,” he said.


HelpingACT bought new wheels from Canberra Toyota in early 2022, thanks to donations. Photo: HelpingACT.

There is also growing demand for the delivery of furniture and white goods to families in need.

“There are often requests for white goods, like a fridge or washing machine, we wanted to increase that activity as well.”

Mr Ali said the number of Canberrans doing it tough has doubled from even last year, from one in 10 people to one in five.

“There was a time during COVID, when I and the other HelpingACT members had a few sleepless nights, because the money was short and demand was so high. I won’t say it’s exactly the same situation now, but it’s certainly nothing less than that situation,” he said.

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For example, stock in their food pantries is not even lasting 24 hours before “everything is gone”.

“It was never like that before.”

On average, HelpingACT spends $1000 every week buying food for families and schools, and this situation isn’t likely to pass anytime soon.

So far, donations towards the food trailer are sitting at around $1000. Mr Ali wants it out and about as quickly as possible, but ultimately in the longer term he hopes more people will sign up as regular donors to HelpingACT too.

“I don’t want people to donate $100, or $200 – I simply want 4000 families in Canberra to commit $10 a month. This is almost nothing, but it will be enough to meet the situation at this point, including the running of the trailer.”

Donate to the food trailer through the GoFundMe page.

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