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What happens when a lawyer dons the volunteer apron?

Janine Gregory, Slater and Gordon’s Head of Personal Injury Law, Australia, writes about volunteering at Hamodava café, assisting the homeless and disadvantaged

in In the Community by Janine Gregory on

Through our support of the Collingwood Football Club Foundation, Slater and Gordon staff have been offered the opportunity to help out at a café in Melbourne which assists the homeless and disadvantaged.  

A joint initiative of the Magpie Nest Housing Project and the Salvation Army, the Hamodava café provides around 2000 free meals each week and uses volunteers to help wait tables, serve customers and clean. I am very pleased to say that many of our local S+G staff have signed up to assist in this worthy endeavour.   

Recently I was pleased to be able to set aside my normal work day to don an apron and volunteer myself with a number of my colleagues down at the cafe. I can honestly say that the experience was truly eye opening and inspirational, and one of the best things I have done.  

It was an honour and a privilege to make a difference in a very small way for those who have come from an environment of homelessness – something that many of our clients have struggled with.  

The whole concept, of not being a traditional soup kitchen, and serving people at their table, gives dignity and respect to those off the street.

Unfortunately, there is a now an alarming rise in rough sleepers in Melbourne with double the number of people experiencing homelessness in the past two years. This issue was brought home to our HR team who recently volunteered at Hamodava on a day that news reports identified the escalating crisis. It shows again how important it is to provide a range of services, such as that offered by Hamodava, not just a hot meal but access to a range of support services, and I urge everyone to consider how they can make a difference.

We had a mix of lawyers and support staff volunteering and it was a great experience to work together to get a job done. Other colleagues also found that it was a rewarding opportunity to take time out to consider the social issues around homelessness and assist in a hands on way:

Yesterday was such a good experience. You really don’t know how many people who are actually in need. It was a hard day – not just physically, but emotionally. The Salvation Army and the people who work there do a great job serving everyone that comes in.'
Sally Allport, Junior Legal Assistant, Motor Vehicle Accident Compensation

'Participating in the volunteering project yesterday was a great experience. I think it’s important for all staff in our line of work to take time out of our day to welcome and learn about people from all different walks of life and see how they live. I highly recommend that my colleagues get involved in this initiative. It is rewarding knowing that we are supporting organisations like The Salvation Army who do so much – with so little – for our community.'
Truejoy Pesaleli, Junior Legal Assistant, Superannuation  

'Honestly, the experience was very eye opening and really emotional for me. I was almost in tears when I saw the line of people waiting to come in for their 9am breakfast. As the day went on, it was very easy to just get on with the job, as we were really busy serving the food, clearing tables and taking orders. When we counted the lunch meals that were served and realised there was 200 lunches served, it really shows the impact of homelessness in Melbourne. That is 200 people who need the help of The Salvation Army every day just to get a meal for lunch.'
Sacha Quick, Junior Legal Assistant, Workers Compensation

‘Volunteering at Hamodava was such an incredibly humbling experience. Taking six hours out of our week to help those in need was a small gesture, but I feel it touched many people and they were very appreciative of our help. It was definitely challenging, both physically and mentally; combining hospitality with social work is no easy feat. But the day was a complete success in my eyes. At the end of the day, nobody chooses to be homeless and after serving a staggering 300 people yesterday, the extent of homelessness in Melbourne was made a reality, rather than just another news report.' 
Rikki Stanley, Trainee Junior Legal Assistant, Superannuation