We recently had a client who arrived with her son, they were empty handed and needed our help. Mum was on a visa, which meant she didn’t have an income and couldn’t work. They had just left a violent environment and were finally safe at Bonnie’s.
First thing I did, after our initial intake meeting, was hand her a hamper. When women arrive at Bonnie’s we give them a food hamper that’s packed with food, longlife items. Enough for Mum to settle for the night and cook dinner in peace.
I could tell she just wanted to rest, and this way she could take her time to settle in. No need to rush out to the supermarket or the chemist, she could just take the time to relax and arrive in this new space.
I showed the family to their room and around the refuge and opened the refuge’s freezer that was full of healthy pre-prepared meals from TooGood and other donated meals. These are very nutritious and there are a lot of vegetarian options too. We’d just had a drop off from Oz Harvest as well, where we received lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, dairy and eggs too. She looked relieved.
A few weeks later, I saw her again and handed her another hamper, by now she was settled in and was feeling much more comfortable. She accepted the hamper and said to me:
When women leave domestic violence they are often leaving behind the homes they built with their partner. They leave their neighbourhood and most of their belongings. They leave their bedrooms and they leave their kitchens. But something I have noticed over the past few years, is something they do bring – their cooking utensils and equipment.
I love seeing women arrive with their own cooking equipment and herbs and spices. I know this helps them feel secure and settled in their new environment when everything else has changed. For many of our culturally and linguistically diverse clients, it is a way for them to connect with and share their culture. Having access to culturally appropriate food is really important for families who have cultural, religious or dietary requirements. This means having food they these families know and are able to eat. Because not all families at Bonnie’s grew up with Weetbix and vegemite toast.
We are also able to provide food vouchers where needed and with the help of Too Good and OzHarvest we’re able to meet the social, cultural and basic food needs of the women in our service.
Sometimes clients will make food and bring it into the office to share with us and show their appreciation for our work. They like to give back in this way and food can be such a harmonising and generous exchange. I still remember a Mum who brought a Birthday cake to the office to celebrate her child’s birthday. The child had never had a birthday cake before so we were all there to celebrate with them on their special day.
Because food is everything. It’s culture; celebration; a way to connect and be generous, and it’s home.
Blog written with Sue.
Image via Canva.