The Mental Health Foundation Australia (MHFA) Victoria ticked off all the boxes for connectedness, resilience, positivity and support through its latest initiative. They’ve been delivering hundreds of meals to people doing it tough in Melbourne during COVID- 19, stage 4 restrictions.
Volunteers and members of MHFA have delivered nearly 300 vegetarian meals a day for the past fortnight to those in need. This was achieved in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Salvation Army and the Australian Multicultural Foundation.
”We are overwhelmed by the support of the community, with many volunteers within various community groups offering their time and support in-kind and financially,’’ said Chairperson Vasan Srinivasan, who is also on the Board of Mental Health Foundation of Australia.
The MHFA, established in Victoria in 1930, is the oldest Mental Health Association in Australia. This group comprises of people from diverse backgrounds and it supports professionals, patients, carers, as well as those directly affected by mental illness.
According to Vasan, the MHFA helpline receives a considerable number of calls from people needing help as anxiety is rising alarmingly during the pandemic.
“Joblessness, homelessness and depression rates are climbing. In some instances three generations are forced to live under one roof and not everyone is able to balance things in such situations. There are many challenges being faced in the mental health space,” he told Indian Link.
According to him, MHFA is one of the true grass roots, community based organisations that will continue playing its part by reaching out to communities and individuals in a way that is positive and free of stigma.
“With this meal delivery initiative we are celebrating the joy of working together towards serving the community,” claimed Vasan, however he wasn’t impressed with the overall funding provided by the Government to MHFA.
“I am very disappointed with the lack of funding provided to us, especially when you look at all the work we are putting in. The funds tend to go to larger organisations, but I can’t see what exactly they are doing with those funds.”
When MHFA communicated their plan for meal delivery, help came from all directions.
Mr Bruce Wong, CEO of Foot Solutions sponsored a registered vehicle, Param Jaswal from Imperial Kitchen offered use of commercial kitchen space, and the Signwriting was offered by Michael Krovesia from Secure M.
Karan Gandhok from Tandoori Junction, assisted by Sri Ananda Bhavan and Saravana Bhavan, coordinated the preparation of meals.
The 30-day meal delivery initiative became a collective effort of the multicultural communities. Members combined efforts to shop ingredients, cook, clean and manage other logistics.
According to Karan Gandhok, the demand has increased and they are now preparing over 600 meals a day.
“I wish to acknowledge the unsung heroes; those who do all the delivery rounds, cut vegetables, clean utensils and the like,” said Karan.
“It’s a wonderful shared activity that has strengthened bonds of friendship and united communities from all nationalities. There is no one community, be it African, Indonesian, Malaysian, Chinese, Indian or Philippines. Everyone has put their hand up to help. I wish the world was unified like this at all times.”
Christina Chia, Vice-chair of the Ambassador program at MHFA, President of Australian Asian Family Association, and former chairperson of the Organising Committee at Cooking for Charity Inc., was among those who volunteered their efforts to cook.
Christina felt she was truly privileged to cook and serve with MHFA as “it is more blessed to give than receive.”
“There was so much positivity, hard work, fun and laughter, as we powered through 600 meals cooked with love and sent them to Collingwood Neighbourhood House, Salvation Army and Mycentre Broadmeadows community,” she said.
Sunny Duggal (Volunteers In charge at Sant Nirankari Mandal Aust Inc) and Santi Whiteside (Vice President of Indonesian Society of Victoria and Indonesian Culinary Society of Victoria) are both multicultural ambassadors for MHFA. With a special permit to drive, they deliver the meals to the central locations from where they are further distributed.
They explained that all COVID-19 protocols regarding food handling and delivery requirements are strictly adhered to. They take turns to do the delivery rounds over a five-day period. They both concur that donating their time, energy and resources has been a very rewarding experience.