I love Bundaberg. I was born here, grew up here, work here and am now raising my family here. Community is so important to me and I love to be able to pay forward and give back where I can. I love that Alowishus is a vehicle that facilitates and enables the entire community to give back also.
People in this town have good hearts. They want to help out where they can. They are just often hamstrung by time, money and an overwhelming sense that the problems are all too big to do anything about. I wanted a program that made it easy and affordable for people to contribute to and be a part of. So we came up with Pay It Forward Sandwiches and Toasties. Customers can purchase a sandwich voucher for $4 and Alowishus subsidies the difference. Recipients of the vouchers can then come in and order straight off the menu. They are welcome to dine in or take away, which ever they choose.
The program launched in November 2015 and since then over 550 Sandwiches have been Paid Forward.
The response from Bundy has been amazing and generous. We have many customers who purchase vouchers on a regular basis, and then those who buy one when they can. It all adds up and makes a massive difference in the lives of those receiving them. One of our amazing customers Ritchie, just this week bought $60 worth of vouchers in one hit.
Often when I’m out and about away from the café people slip me $5 or $10 dollars to donate to the program. I was at a friend’s house making cards recently when her husband called me out of the room and told me about a homeless man he saw of the way to work that week. He gave me $20 to buy vouchers with when I got back to the shop. People from everywhere are donating to the program, even out of towners. You can even purchase the Pay Forward Vouchers online at www.alowishus.com.au/payitforward.
If you are unsure how the program works, this is it in a nutshell.
Customers pay $4 for a voucher that is given to Impact Community Services. Impact then take the vouchers out on a Tuesday Night with their Street Outreach Van and a bunch of volunteers. The Van visits 3 to 4 locations a night and hands out the vouchers along with essential items like toiletries and tinned food. The volunteers make coffee and tea and most importantly have a conversation and connect with not only the Homeless in Bundy, but the lonely and often down and out.
About a month ago I was able to go out with the Street Outreach Van and it turned out to be a busy night. Initially I volunteered as a once off so I could see the whole program in action. I see our customers coming in to purchase the vouchers and I see the reciprocates of the vouchers coming into the café to have a sandwich, but I hadn’t seen the middle part of the program in action. Believe me, this is where the action happens! In the middle part.
The night I went, two of my team members from Alowishus also came along. Melissa who is still at school and Eliza who is studying Nursing at CQU, they both work part time at our café. We were teamed up with Narelle, an amazing woman who works for Impact, along with 3 other ladies who were regulars with the van.
Our first stop
was the Riverside Parklands where we only made a few cups of coffee and had a chat with a regular customer of the Street Outreach Van, then we headed onto the Soup Kitchen at Living Word Church. On the way we saw Jeff. He is well known to the Street Outreach Team and is such a likeable character. When we saw him, he was running up the street, very animated trying to get a lift with us to the church. Unfortunately for him, it’s against protocol to pick anyone up, so we slowed down to say hello and told him we would meet him there. Is was only 100 metres down the road and by the time we had parked Jeff had arrived.
We made loads of coffees,
gave out all sorts of items, including blankets, jumpers, beanies, toothpaste and toothbrushes and lots of Pay It Forward Vouchers. However, the biggest impact I think we had was in the conversations that took place. So many of these people are lonely and lack regular social interaction. This is how the disconnect begins to happen, which sometimes, ultimately results in homelessness.
I chatted with all sorts of people but was particularly drawn to the conversations with Jeff. What surprised me most was how well educated Jeff was. He was able to hold a conservation on many different and diverse subjects, and he was also really entertaining. He had a fabulous sense of humour.
Near the end of our time at the soup kitchen,
a phone call was received telling us of some help that was needed down under the Tallon Bridge, so we packed ourselves up and headed off. Here we ran into Jeff again and another couple who reside under the bridge. This was the real and brutal face of homelessness and was rather heartbreaking I have to say. Heartbreaking for me, however for Bill and Betty it’s a way of life and after chatting with them for a while I could see that in some small way they were happy. The conversation certainly wasn’t about how tough things were for them. The conversation was around times past, common friends and acquaintances, chicken noodle soup and woolly socks.
That night I went home and I showered, and as I slipped into my nice – soft – warm & cosy – dry – bed. I said an extra Thank you to God for all the good things in my life.
Thanks for your support and thanks for reading pay forward
Some names in this blogpost have been changed to protect privacy.
If you are interested in donating to the Pay it Forward Sandwich Program follow this link www.alowishus.com.au/payitforward
If you wish to volunteer with the Street Outreach Van or on any of the other amazing services Impact Community Services offer, click here for more info:
I love our pay forward program