Boston-born Juliana Somer is an advertising account executive who spends her weekends volunteering at Wellington food waste charity, Kaibosh Food Rescue. The 24-year-old talks to Sarah Catherall.
My grandmother Phyllis has always volunteered. She lives between Hawaii and Wellington. She is a teacher and she has influenced so many people in so many ways. That’s what also inspired me to get involved in my community: seeing the impact she has had on people.
I planned to just come [here] to see my grandparents for about three months and I’ve been here for three years so far. I was studying at university in Boston and decided to take a break and travel. I’m now trying to stay permanently.
It can be hard trying to make friends in a new place, and I was also looking for a way to get more involved in the community.
I wanted to do something that had an impact. Food is something that everyone needs.
A friend was volunteering at Kaibosh, so
I was able to jump in and join really easily.
[Kaibosh] drivers rescue 1000kg of food on a Sunday from supermarkets around Wellington. It’s food that would otherwise go to waste, into the rubbish bin. The food I sort is mainly fruit and veges, and a bit of bread and dairy that has been donated, too. At Kaibosh, there are two kinds of volunteers: drivers and the food rescuers who go with them, and food sorting volunteers.
I start about 4.30pm on a Sunday, and stand at a long table where we sort everything. We make up boxes of food for about 100 charities and community groups in Wellington and the Hutt Valley that need food, like the Salvation Army, the Wellington Night Shelter, and council flats.
Kaibosh is also zero waste, so we’re helping the environment and people.
If the leftover food can’t be eaten because it is decayed or spoiled, we usually compost it or donate it to Black Sheep Animal Sanctuary. If it can’t be used by people, we give it to animals. On my shift, it is mainly women who volunteer, usually about 10 of us.
My family is vegetarian and my father is a vegan. We were big animal lovers and our diet was out of a concern for animal welfare. It always made sense to me as a kid – not to eat animals, which I thought were cute and fun.
Before I do my Kaibosh shift, I like going to Island Bay to the Bluebell cafe for brunch, or Midnight Espresso in town.
Sunday brunch was always a ritual for me when I lived in Boston. I try to go for a run or do some yoga and, if I can, I try to get out for a day hike. I’ve tramped over the weekend in the Tararua Ranges, which are stunning.
I also volunteer at the Home of Compassion Soup Kitchen on a Wednesday and they get food from Kaibosh, so it’s really cool to see where the food goes, and what it is turned into. I start about 4.30pm on a Wednesday night, making teas and coffees or washing dishes. The Soup Kitchen is for people who can’t afford a meal. They pay $2 so there’s an element of dignity. It’s like a restaurant. We set up the tables with flowers, and white tablecloths. There are two cooks making the meals and volunteers serve the guests like waiters. They get a full meal, some meat and fresh, healthy vegetables. We had 65 diners the other night, and we can have up to 75.
I went to Outward Bound last year on a scholarship given to volunteers. It was a life-changing three weeks. Most of the young volunteers on that particular intake were on a scholarship for a charity they were helping. They were aged from teens to 26-year-olds, all doing something for their community.
Volunteering is huge among young people because it’s a way to feel like we are making small steps to help the world, especially when the world can feel so dark sometimes. “Man, the world is so big, how can I make a difference?” It’s really the desire to change what has been handed down to us.