A partnership with Rosies intended to promote and maintain unity between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities has grown into a community-wide effort to feed Cairns’ homeless.
When Rosies Cairns branch coordinator Lyall Forde mentioned to Alma Mohammed he was looking for some volunteers to cook food for outreach, she thought she knew some women in the community who could help.
The biggest challenge ahead of her would be to raise money for ingredients.
Alma enlisted the help of her friend Renee Walker to come up with a solution – and from that partnership the Muslim Women’s Association of Far North Queensland was born.
‘Renee and I came up with the idea to create a market stall, which we have at the Gordonvale Markets once a month,’ Alma said.
‘It’s been great, and all of the food is homemade and cooked by women in the local community.
‘In fact, my mum has been doing most of the cooking!’
The pair sell home made sweets and pastries, with the proceeds used to buy ingredients to cook into meals for the homeless.
Those ingredients are then turned into meals which are distributed to Rosies patrons in Munro Martin Park once a month.
The Association’s stall has become a fixture at the markets, with the wider local community rallying around to support the fundraiser.
‘We have regulars, we take orders – we have people who come to Gordonvale from Cairns.
‘When we do miss a market, people send messages – “Where are you? Can I just give you the $10 instead?”’
The women were scheduled to provide meals to Rosies patrons on New Years Day, but there were no markets in December so no funds had been raised for ingredients.
The first of January was coincidentally also Alma’s daughter’s fourth birthday and she thought it would serve as the inspiration for a wonderful gesture of community spirit.
‘When I spoke to my 4 year old daughter, and said, “What would you like to do for your birthday?” she said, “We have to feed the homeless!”’
With that decided, the Association put out an appeal for food through their local mosque and then to the wider community.
The donations came flooding in, and a New Years Day banquet was assembled: roast chicken, crumbed Spanish mackerel, potato bake, and vegetable stew.
Festive fruit mince pies and quintessentially Australian lamingtons finished the meal, which was served to some of the local community’s most socially isolated individuals and families.
Most importantly, each person was provided with the opportunity to eat a hot meal from a plate in a communal environment of acceptance and friendship.
‘At the end of the night, everyone took away one or two meals with them – families with younger children took more,’ Alma said.
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