Food van volunteering with Youth Off The Streets

Sydney, 15 Mar 2016

After participating in a volunteering shift with Youth Off The Streets’ food van in Sydney a few years ago, Macquarie staff member Rachael Ashford was hooked.

Since then, she has continued to volunteer once a month with the food van service, which feeds up to 50 homeless people every night. Each shift, a team of four volunteers cook donated food in a Marrickville kitchen and drive it to inner city Sydney to serve hungry clients.

“I’d never volunteered before but I found it very rewarding and effective from the start,” says Ashford, who also coordinates Macquarie’s graduate intakes.

“I’ve got to know the food van patrons over the years and have a special rapport with many of them – they know when I’ll be there and are expecting me so we can have a chat. There are always a few people waiting for us each time we get to Kings Cross and then another 20 to 50 people trickle through the rest of the night. It’s an eye-opening experience but it’s a real pleasure and everyone gets a lot out of it.”

As part of Macquarie’s graduate volunteer network, Sydney-based staff have volunteered around once a month since 2011 with the service.

“Without us some of the clients wouldn’t have a hot meal for the day, and sometimes we are the only people who have a conversation with them that day so they are very appreciative,” says Ashford.

“I’ve also enjoyed seeing more than 100 graduates experience their own volunteering shift, and I can see myself continuing into the future.”

For more than 14 years Macquarie Group staff and the Macquarie Group Foundation have supported Youth Off The Streets, from providing strategic advice and board membership to working bees and hamper packing at Christmas. More than $A265,000 has also been contributed by staff with Macquarie Group Foundation matching, to help ensure Youth Off The Streets can continue to support and develop young people.

Since its establishment in 1991, Youth Off The Streets has grown from a single food van service to a major youth focused non-profit. Its 35 services across New South Wales cover crisis care, rehabilitation, residential, education, counselling, mentoring, life skills and vocational training for young people.

These programs include the Brumbies Wild Horses Service Learning Project in the Southern Highlands of NSW, which the Macquarie Group Foundation first supported as part of its initial partnership with Youth Off The Streets in 2002.

It taught young men from disadvantaged backgrounds to train and tame wild brumbies under the guidance of an expert horse handler, helping participants build up their responsibility and self-esteem.

Image caption: Macquarie staff Kate Shaw and Rachael Ashford in the Youth Off The Streets food van as part of a volunteering shift in Kings Cross.