My Sun­day

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.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - EDITOR’S NOTE -

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.

Pho­tos: Ross Gi­b­lin

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