While some spend the summer at the beach or relaxing in front of the TV, a group of Logan teenagers embarked on something different – a holiday project to help local homeless people.
Kuraby woman Aisha Abdallah, 19, came up with an idea: along with her friends, she wanted to do something to help people in her community feel good.
While watching overseas videos on the internet, inspiration struck – providing practical gifts to homeless people locally.
‘A man was going around asking homeless people what they wanted for Christmas,’ Aisha said.
‘They wanted little things, like a Starbucks coffee, just because they hadn’t had one in a while.’
Aisha was surprised by the simplicity of some of their answers, and realised that offering small but special gifts – ‘like a really delicious coffee’ – is a way of showing people they matter.
‘Such a little thing, done sincerely, can make someone really happy.’
Pooling their own money to buy the gifts, Aisha and her friends put together 30 bags filled with easy to eat items: snacks, noodle cups, biscuits with cheese, and small ready to eat tins, along with pieces of seasonal fresh fruit – ripe mangoes, nectarines, apples, and bananas.
The teenagers had originally planned to set out into Brisbane City on their own to find rough sleepers, but after contacting Rosies – Friends on the Street, they instead decided to distribute their gifts in their local community.
Four of the girls – Aisha, her sister, and two of her cousins – handed out the gifts to patrons attending Rosies’ Woodridge outreach.
They also spent some time talking with patrons and volunteers, as well as with staff from the Street Doctors mobile medical service who offer a GP clinic to the homeless.
‘We had heard of the Street Doctors, but I think it was a real eye-opener being a part of it,’ said Aisha.
Street team leader and Logan branch coordinator Margaret Harvey said patrons who come to Rosies are just like anyone else.
‘Some of them have had bad luck and some have an illness and no one cares about them,’ she said.
‘We have some pensioners who come every week – they’re isolated, they don’t have family so they come to us.’
Margaret says it’s common for Rosies patrons to feel like they are alone, and that many have difficulty finding opportunities to be social.
‘Some of our patrons have mental illness – they have a case worker who comes every two weeks, but no one else wants to spend time with them.’
She says most people who come to the Rosies van at Woodridge are not what many would consider ‘stereotypical’ rough sleepers.
‘Out here, you’re seeing the hidden homeless,’ said Margaret.
‘They’ve got a roof over their head, but nothing else.
‘Or families in cars. The kids are going to school every day, so nobody knows they’re homeless.’
Aisha said she and her friends enjoyed the experience, and planned to put together more gift bags for Rosies patrons throughout the year – with a range of different items like sunglasses, sunscreen, shampoo and conditioner and some homemade cupcakes.
Most of all, she hopes that the gesture will help some vulnerable people know they matter.
‘It’s just about saying hi to people, letting them know you’re thinking about them.’
To see the video that inspired Aisha and her friends, click here.