What do our volunteers say?

What are the experiences of people who volunteer with Servants?

Have a read of what some of our wonderful volunteers have to say about getting involved in the Servants community.

Doug: provides a weekly lunch for residents at Hamer

“I've been doing Friday lunches since 2012. It's an important part of my week, the residents and I enjoy each other's company, and I help my friends eat right.”

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Thomas (Year 11 Xavier student): plays pool and other board games with residents at Romana on Fridays

“Servants (Romana) has been a wonderful opportunity for me to give back to society and also broaden my knowledge about the world and people’s lives.”

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Lucy: cooked delicious dishes from goods donated in bulk

“I found being part of the Servants community very special, personally I think I benefitted from being part of a community that I’d never stepped into before. I saw a far more colourful world, filled with stories, challenges, falls and triumphs.”

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Raylene: offers financial counselling for residents

“The highlight was sharing stories from these men's lives and breaking down my own stereotypical thinking and personal biases about how people's circumstances can change very quickly usually through events outside of their control that result in them being homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.”

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Laurie: runs monthly BBQs at Hamer

“Over the years there have been tragic events and heart-warming recoveries, as well as the privilege of genuine mutual friendship.”

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Elisha: runs hands-on food education and preparation programs with other volunteers from OzHarvest with residents

“I think it was wonderful to see men who had never cooked before gain confidence and learn basic cooking skills, such as chopping ingredients with a sharp knife.”

Read more

Grace: has been running monthly BBQs at Carrical for nearly a decade

“I didn't anticipate how important the friendships I made there would become and how much the stories that were shared over meals together would shape my thinking.”

Read more

Doug: provides a weekly lunch for residents at Hamer

How did you get involved with Servants initially?

I worked for the Office of Housing / Department of Human Services as the main liaison with community housing providers in the Eastern Metropolitan Region from 1995 to 2010.  I worked closely with Servants, particularly enjoyed working with rooming houses, and particularly liked Servants' model.  Hamer Court came online after I left, but I helped get it and keep it on the agenda over a few years.  I worked with Matt Maudlin and his predecessors.  After I left DHS, I had Fridays off and Matt suggested the Friday lunch idea.

Why do you keep coming back?

I've been doing Friday lunches since 2012. It's an important part of my week, the residents and I enjoy each other's company, and I help my friends eat right. I have numerous relationships with residents that are important to me.  I believe I provide consistency, dependability, routine, nutrition, and personal attention, which are appreciated by residents (and good for me).

Can you share one key memory you have from your Hamer lunches with us?

No, I don't think I can provide one key memory.  It's much more about the little things and the sum total of everything that's happened every week over seven years.  But there was the time I brought Dane Beams to Hamer Court…

Thomas (Year 11 Xavier student): plays pool and other board games with residents at Romana on Fridays

How did you get involved with Servants initially?

Servants (Romana) has been a wonderful opportunity for me to give back to society and also broaden my knowledge about the world and people’s lives. I got involved with Servants when a teacher at Xavier College recommended them to me.

What have you learned while volunteering at Servants?

My first experience was an eye opener as I was unsure of what to expect. Since that time, I have consistently been going back to Servants, to listen to residents’ stories and interact with them. Whether it is playing pool with Paul or having a chat with Phil, it is always a pleasurable time. During my time at Servants, I have learnt that life struggles do exist, and you can never know what will happen to you.

What would you say to other high school students considering doing community service with Servants?

Attending every Friday has seen me come across various experiences and I highly recommend any high school students to volunteer and you will reap from the rewards. ‘Life isn’t fair, so you have to play the best game you can with the cards you’re dealt’.

Lucy: cooked delicious dishes from goods donated in bulk

Talk us through what you did as a volunteer cook.

On Fridays, I would go to Romana Kitchen and assist the cook with meal prep and clean up. But my main role was to handle all the large donations that were received from food share groups - which weren’t part of that week’s meal plan. I made kilos of tomatoes into pasta sauce, stewed countless apples and made banana bread. It was different every week and all the cooks I worked with were so welcoming.

What personal benefits came from you volunteering with Servants?

I found being part of the Servants community very special. Personally, I think I benefited from being part of a community that I’d never stepped into before. I saw a far more colourful world, filled with stories, challenges, falls and triumphs. One cook I worked with spent her life serving the homeless with a church in Melbourne - and her experience and stories were invaluable. She and the residents opened my eyes to what homelessness really is and that we don’t need to be afraid of it, but rather shake hands with it and offer what we can give to make a bad day slightly better.

Can you share one key memory you have from cooking at Romana?

I remember when a resident arrived and that Friday was his third day at Romana. I asked him how he was finding his new home at Servants. He replied, “The food!! Eating here is like eating at a 3-star Michelin restaurant”. The meal he’d received was basic but hearty. This really stuck with me and I felt very proud of the cooks and servants for the way their ‘3-star Michelin rated’ food was making this gentleman smile.

Lucy: cooked delicious dishes from goods donated in bulk

Talk us through what you did as a volunteer cook.

On Fridays, I would go to Romana Kitchen and assist the cook with meal prep and clean up. But my main role was to handle all the large donations that were received from food share groups - which weren’t part of that week’s meal plan. I made kilos of tomatoes into pasta sauce, stewed countless apples and made banana bread. It was different every week and all the cooks I worked with were so welcoming.

What personal benefits came from you volunteering with Servants?

I found being part of the Servants community very special. Personally, I think I benefited from being part of a community that I’d never stepped into before. I saw a far more colourful world, filled with stories, challenges, falls and triumphs. One cook I worked with spent her life serving the homeless with a church in Melbourne - and her experience and stories were invaluable. She and the residents opened my eyes to what homelessness really is and that we don’t need to be afraid of it, but rather shake hands with it and offer what we can give to make a bad day slightly better.

Can you share one key memory you have from cooking at Romana?

I remember when a resident arrived and that Friday was his third day at Romana. I asked him how he was finding his new home at Servants. He replied, “The food!! Eating here is like eating at a 3-star Michelin restaurant”. The meal he’d received was basic but hearty. This really stuck with me and I felt very proud of the cooks and servants for the way their ‘3-star Michelin rated’ food was making this gentleman smile.

Raylene: offers financial counselling for residents

What did your workshops entail?

I have come from a long career in banking and in recent years I have completed my Diploma of Financial Counselling. (Note - Financial Counsellors work with clients experiencing issues with debt and financial hardship, which is quite different to the work that Financial Advisors or Financial Planners do).  I also have been accredited to facilitate ANZ Money-Minded Basics workshops. Roughly once a month or every six weeks, I have been running these workshops at Romana House.  I've had a small but loyal group of men participate in these workshops.  Some of the topics we've covered are:-

  • How Attitudes to Money are formed
  • Planning and Budgeting
  • Setting Savings Goals
  • Savings and Spending (how to reduce "spending leaks")
  • Everyday banking products (generic information - not product specific) - including how to avoid fees and charges
  • How to read and understand your bank statements
  • Record keeping tips
  • Understanding secured and unsecured debts and "dangerous debt" (ie loan sharks etc)
  • Credit reports and credit ratings
  • How to avoid scams

What would you say to others who might be considering running a workshop with residents at Servants?

  • Keep the sessions short (no longer than 1.5hrs) and as interactive as possible (no PowerPoints presentations). Flipcharts work well or practical activities.
  • Keep your language "plain English" and bear in mind that the residents have varying degrees of literacy, numeracy and comprehension. Concentration span can sometimes be a challenge so schedule short breaks throughout the session.
  • Engage the participants - don't just "talk at them".Find out their hobbies or which footy team they follow - this banter helps to build a relationship and their trust in you.  Try to remember their names and greet them by name at your next visit.
  • Have resources/handouts that the residents can take away to review later.
  • Make the content relevant to their day-to-day circumstances and particularly improving their day-to-day lives.
  • Don't be disappointed if numbers are low as often mental health issues prevent the residents from attending if they are not well enough on the day.

Can you share one particular highlight from this experience?

  • Running these sessions has been incredibly rewarding as I have felt that I have actually helped these men to understand more about day-to-day banking terms. Through conversation it became clear that one of the residents actually held TPD insurance cover within a Super policy that he was entitled to claim on and I made referrals to the appropriate professionals to assist him with this. He had no prior understanding of what this policy was for.  Another resident commented that for the first time in a very long time he actually had some money left over from his Centrelink benefit at the end of the fortnight due to being more aware of his spending habits and having some tips around thrifty shopping habits.
  • The highlight was sharing stories from these men's lives and breaking down my own stereotypical thinking and personal biases about how people's circumstances can change very quickly usually through events outside of their control that result in them being homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. I have become a far more compassionate person through my interactions at Servants Housing.

Laurie: runs monthly BBQs at Hamer

What do you do as part of the monthly BBQs?

Since 2010 a team from Canterbury Baptist Church (CBC) has been running a BBQ for residents at Hamer. We aim for a team of six for each session – two to cook the BBQ from around 5.00pm, others to set up and to share with the residents. We all share the meal together, and the team then cleans up by around 6.30pm. Often our members will stay on until after 7.00pm sharing with the residents, who nearly all greatly appreciate our involvement.

Can you share a highlight from your BBQ-ing times with us?

Our real highlight each year is the December gathering – each time with decorations (a voucher for each resident – a gift from CBC), and the Christmas band leading Christmas carols. This past year members of the CBC team also provided a Christmas Day lunch for residents who didn’t have anywhere else to go for the day.

Why is volunteering in this way an important thing for the CBC team to do?

All members of the CBC team really enjoy building friendships with residents, all of whom struggle with the challenges of life. Over the years there have been tragic events and heart-warming recoveries, as well as the privilege of genuine mutual friendship. We seek to share the love of Christ in our care, actions and words, and we learn of life’s lessons with and from them. Many of the residents have had journeys like ours, but circumstances have led them to vulnerability. CBC team members recognise that ‘there, but for the Grace of God, go I!’

Elisha: runs hands-on food education and preparation programs with other volunteers from OzHarvest with residents

What does a Nutrition Education Sustenance Training (NEST) workshop look like at Servants?

OzHarvest’s Nutrition Education Skills Training (NEST) program is a 6-week, 15-hour public health nutrition program especially designed to teach vulnerable Australian adults how to nurture themselves with nutritious foods on a budget. The program integrates a series of interactive and fun nutrition education activities with practical cooking lessons.

Our registered nutritionist and team of OzHarvest volunteers travelled to Servants Community Housing with all the cooking equipment and ingredients at the same day and time each week for the 6-week program duration. Each session ran for 2.5 hours (150 minutes). All workshops started with a brief group discussion and an activity in line with the module’s theme. Participants then cooked 2-3 recipes in small groups before enjoying their creations together while recapping the sessions learnings.

At the final workshop all participants received a certificate of completion and their very own customisable copy of our new OzHarvest Everyday Cookbook, packed full of easy, cheap, healthy, and delicious recipes (all of which cost less than $2.00 per serve!).

How do you think OzHarvest's involvement with Servants benefits the residents?

The NEST program was designed using the latest research and by talking to vulnerable Australians’ about how we can help them improve their food literacy and dietary behaviours. Ultimately, information is simply not enough, we need to provide practical skills and encourage behaviour change. Bringing about dietary behaviour change is complex and hinged on many factors, such as motivation, confidence, and the need for skills and equipment.  The residents at Servants benefited by gaining further skills and awareness around cooking and nutrition in an enjoyable environment, and many had increased self-confidence and self-esteem.  We are still analysing the survey data that we collected during the program, but from initial review it appears that participants:

  • Decreased reliance on fast food/takeaway and energy-dense nutrient poor foods and drinks.
  • Increased food and nutrition knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy.
  • Increased confidence in cooking healthy meals on a budget.
  • Reduced perceived barriers to healthy eating via changing attitudes and beliefs.

Feedback from Anne (the Romana House Manager) also confirmed that the NEST program increased social interaction and provided psychological benefits to the residents, such as:

  • Residents laughing and eating with OzHarvest staff and volunteers, providing them with wonderful exposure and confidence building for some residents who rarely leave the property.
  • Residents building relationships with each other, who never usually talked, were working alongside each other
  • Residents also volunteered to help the OzHarvest staff and volunteers prepare for the workshops, which helped the residents to feel good about themselves and receive appreciation.

Can you share one particular highlight/memorable moment from the workshops at Servants?

It’s hard to pick just one particular highlight!  I think it was wonderful to see men who had never cooked before gain confidence and learn basic cooking skills, such as chopping ingredients with a sharp knife.  But it was equally exciting to see participants engage in the goal setting component of the NEST program.  Each week it was wonderful to hear the residents set goals such as reducing their takeaway from twice a week to once a week, reducing the amount of sugar in their tea and coffee, and to eat new vegetables.  It was even better to hear the following week when we followed up on the residents’ goals, that the residents had achieved many of the goals they set, and that they were working together to encourage each other to stick to the goals they set.

Grace: has been running monthly BBQs at Carrical for nearly a decade

What are your early recollections of the BBQs?

When I started coming along to Servants I didn't really have any expectations. A church I attended ran BBQs there and I came along out of curiosity. Now nearly 10 years later, I still come to run BBQs every month.

What has surprised you about volunteering at Carrical?

I didn't anticipate how important the friendships I made there would become and how much the stories that were shared over meals together would shape my thinking. Sharing a laugh, watching the footy and discussing all matter of topics has become part of the visits and I value the time spent there.