Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Packages for Homeless 2015

Going into last weekend and our P4H distribution date, I found myself feeling what I can only describe as drained. School and a variety of other factors were making my life incredibly stressful, and I was not in the most positive of moods. Needless to say, the notion of the very exhausting weekend ahead of me was not overly enticing.

However, something that John Green said in a vlog that I happened to watch the day before our distribution day, reminded me that I did in fact wish to wake up at 5am on Saturday morning (despite how horrible that sounded).

"Hank, as you know, for a long time in my life I would get to a point where I felt overwhelmed and exhausted, and then I would fall into this spiral where I would do less and less and less, and then eventually I would be doing nothing, but I would still feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Because the thing is, I didn't just stop doing the things that drained me, I also stopped doing everything else. I stopped functioning completely"

"This is the thing that instead of draining me, fills me up" - John Green

Whilst the thing that was filling me up wasn't touring with the cast and crew of the movie version of my bestselling book - I did see where John was coming from. It is important to do the things that make you remember why you exist.
Ultimately, being a part of The Deluminators does make me feel good about myself, and I am so thankful for it so often.

I have spent a lot of time over the past 18months of running The Deluminators, wondering whether it is selfish to enjoy charity work. Wondering if it should always be tough and trying, because it should be entirely 100% selfless.

However to reference another one of the massive inspirations in my life, Kim and Kath from The Possibility Project, in order for charity to be sustainable, it must go both ways.

The way I see it, the people I handed packages to last Saturday helped me just as much as I hope I helped them. Every single one of our members is gaining confidence and skills in areas they might never have experienced otherwise. The Deluminators is an experience for us as well, that's what makes it possible for us to keep going.

On that tangential, mildly self-focused point, I would like to return to what this campaign is actually about - helping the homeless population of Sydney.


When The Deluminators were still little more than a group of eight young people meeting in the cold on a drizzly Sunday in Darling Harbour with a registration for Accio Books and a dream, we came across Packages for Homeless. They were a group of like-minded, kind, talented and vastly more successful people, who were creating active change in the community.

Australian Nerdfighters' P4H created 300 backpacks full of necessities for people on the streets of Sydney and Melbourne, and to us Deluminators (still struggling to reach 2,000 books) they became one of our main driving inspirations.

So when winter 2015 came around (a year after their successful campaign) I approached Caitlin (one of the main members of P4H, and a fellow Deluminator) and asked if they were planning on reviving the campaign for another year. I was pleasantly surprised at the result of our conversation. What followed was a discussion that resulted in a new plan for 2015, a joint campaign.

In retrospect, the main thing that jumps to mind when I think of P4H, is spreadsheets. Lots and lots of spreadsheets. Coordinating around seven collection points, plus donations from businesses and knitting groups is a feat that was doomed to fail from the start. What would inevitably result would be several columns on the spreadsheet being updated at the same time, and us ending up with double what we needed of certain items, and not enough of others.

Regardless of the troubles we encountered, we succeeded in the end. With the help of a few very generous donors, we collected enough money at the end of the campaign to fill in all of the gaps in our spreadsheet, and we successfully had the right amount of each item.

I would like to thank all of our incredible donors, without whom we would never have achieved our goal.

Universal Store
ZAP Variety Chatswood
Eastern Road Village Pharmacy
White Glo
Ju Ju
Poncho Poncho
Coca-Cola Amatil
Sylvania Library Knitting Group
Girl Guides Australia
Knitting in Public
Makers Loft
Hornsby Leo's
Cronulla High School
Coles Turramurra

Our packing day on the 11th of July passed with all the drama that could be expected. We lost a phone, ran out of forks (I blame the spreadsheet) and became fully exhausted, all in all, a successful day. It was an amazing feeling to see all of our hard work beginning to come together as we looked around the room and saw all of the items we had brought together from every far corner of Sydney. Items which would be able to help some of the people most in need within our city.

Many people have asked me whilst I was telling them about our campaign, if we needed a permit to give items to people on the street. It was a question that truly made me realise how off the grid people who are homeless often become, below the recognition of the authorities beyond dispersing them as soon as it gets light. The stigma surrounding people going through tough times will only be destroyed once we begin to recognise everyone as possessing the same humanity as ourselves.

In case you were wondering, we found the phone. Please like and share this Facebook post concerning what happened there. It's a story that truly should be told:

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"Today was the big day. The day where months of hard work, countless emails and phone calls, collection points and unhealthy stress would pay off as we distributed the 150 backpacks full of necessities that our hard work had culminated in.

However after only being half way through what will be a long and exhausting day of distributions, my faith has been restored in humanity beyond what I had anticipated heading into this campaign.Last week, when packing the backpacks in a 'highly organised' production line, one of our members' phone went missing. We scoured the room, and to our dismay realised that it must have ended up in one of the packs. We searched and searched, but came up empty handed. We were at a loss.

So then it came as the most amazing surprise when on George Street at around 9am this morning, after handing out a backpack to an incredibly grateful man on the street, something happened that would shift the mood of our entire day. The man had abandoned all of his belongings and come running panicked down the street to find us, the phone had been in his bag.

It's not every day that you get to experience such pure goodness. Not every day that people get to show that no matter how tough their circumstances, they will still strive to do the right thing. My faith has officially been restored in humanity. Not only because our member, Riley, no longer has to buy a new phone, but because this campaign we are running is not only giving some people going through tough times some much-needed assistance; but it is helping to remove the stigma surrounding homeless people amongst our peers.

Every grateful smile, happy story and well-wishes I have received today has made this campaign (and possibly my entire involvement in The Deluminators) worthwhile.

***PLEASE SHARE THIS POST! This story should be heard***

The day itself was one of the most physically exhausting, yet mentally rewarding days of my life.
We all woke up around 5am in order to get to Wynyard station (our meeting point) in time for our 6-6:30am start. Some of us caught the train, some of us travelled to Willoughby to load our cars full of the 150 backpacks that had been cluttering our member Skyler's living room for a week.

Sometimes I wish Australia's reputation for being a hot country would persist into 5am in the dead of winter, because I was cold. Not to mention the thousands of people sleeping rough across Sydney due to issues of homelessness...hence why we came armed with lots and lots of hand-knitted scarves. Winter is no time to be sleeping outside.

From 6-8am we handed out bags in Woolloomooloo, Wynyard and Hyde Park.

At 8 we paused for a well-earned breakfast at Pancakes on the Rocks. Nothing warms you up quite like maple syrup soaked bacon and egg pancakes.

From 9am-1pm we handed out bags in George Street, Pitt Street, Martin Place, Circular Quay and Chatswood.

At 1, we allowed ourselves another break to do a stocktake of the bags and possibly go home to reboot (maybe take a nap).

From 6-8pm we handed out bags in Wentworth Park, Central Station and Prince Alfred Park.

15 hours and some very sore backs later, the bags were distributed. What a day!

For reasons of privacy, there aren't many photos of anything that happened on the day

I can honestly say that prior to this weekend, I saw what we were doing as incredibly confronting and nerve-wracking...not so much anymore. The smiles of gratitude we received throughout the day speak volumes more than I could ever express in words. We shared hope and care, not just toothbrushes, scarves and baked beans. We showed that we as young Australians wanted to help, and the amazing people we met understood and valued that.

The man we met in Woollomooloo who was blind, missing both legs and on his way back to hospital
The man on George Street with such pure integrity to hand back a phone.
The women in Prince Alfred Park sharing a tent in the heart of winter.
The man who's name was also Sean.
The woman and her aunt sticking together.

Everyone has their story, none is more important than any other. I am so thankful for the stories that were shared with me this past weekend.

As people trying to live in this fast-paced world, we often adopt tunnel vision so that we can get on with our lives. Even the kindest and most generous people in the world will often walk past people begging, simply because they can't spare the money. It is amazing to suddenly then be in a situation where you can see someone on the street and know exactly what to do...hand them a pack. Nothing beats that sense of purpose. Once we rid ourselves of the pointless guilt (not being able to finish your meal, and thinking of the starving children in Ethiopia) we can start to make tangible change in the world.

Thank you to all of the members who dedicated their time to sending countless emails (often with absolutely zero luck), collecting donations and distributing packs

Christine Wilson, Caitlin McColl, Alex Bertulis-Fernandes, Skyler Kennedy, Joanna van Zeller, Liz Lyon, Olivia Lyndon, Laura Davies, Jonny Anthony, Riley Robey, Tess Watty, Alex Nielsen, Emily Stav, Jharna Chamlagai, Jim Southwell, Natalie Hoskins, Tammy Tan, Morgan Baynash, Lauren Wilhlem, Tim Kelly

Thank you to everyone who made this campaign possible. It has done far more good than the tangible benefits of the packs themselves.

I hope it has repercussions into the future for everyone who was involved in any capacity - I have certainly been changed by it.


1 comment:

  1. I met you at Darling Quarter and my little girl was so touched by the flower she received. I would love to interview you for a website I am involved with, Siren Empire. My email is raphie482@gmail.com if you want to make contact. Bless you all, Raphaela