The desire to belong is something that is uniquely human, we were not meant to be solitary creatures. Psychotherapist Angela Theisen states that, “We cannot separate the importance of a sense of belonging from our physical and mental health. The social ties that accompany a sense of belonging are a protective factor helping manage stress and other behavioral issues. When we feel we have support and are not alone, we are more resilient, often coping more effectively with difficult times in our lives.”*
It is the desire to belong that draws many patrons to our outreach locations in Ipswich. Sue has been attending every Wednesday for the last five years with her three children, “I like coming here because it’s a good environment for my kids, I’m friends with all of the volunteers.”
Our Ipswich branch is well supported by the local community and works very closely with other services like Orange Sky laundry and Down to Earth, a meal service started by one of Rosies former Youth Engagement Program participants, d’Arcy Witherspoon. A local bakery, Saigon Bakehouse, also donates pies, sausage rolls, sweets and sandwiches that haven’t been sold that day for our patrons.
Ipswich Branch Coordinator Barry Reinecker said, “We offer much more than a cuppa and a snack in order to meet the needs of our community. Many of our patrons are housed and work but still find it hard to make ends meet, the donations from the local community really help with easing some of the pressures associated with food insecurity.”
“Coming to Rosies helps with the family budget and I’m grateful for that,” Sue said. She continued, “Its more than just the food though, the volunteers are very welcoming and inviting. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are, whether you’re homeless or in need you are all treated equally.”
Rosies Branch Coordinator Barry has developed a very special relationship with Sue and her children. “All the kids are very shy and neurodivergent, it’s important to treat them as you would any friend and let them know that they are important and what they do matters. Asking them basic questions and really listening to them when they answer, displaying an interest and celebrating their achievements no matter how big or small,” he said.
He continued, “Our volunteers focus on fostering a sense of community and belonging with our patrons and that helps the children feel safe and coaxes them out of their shyness. We accept them as they are and acknowledge how they present themselves.”
Sue highlighted the importance of her children feeling safe and accepted, “The volunteers accept you no matter what. When we first started coming here my middle son identified as female and now, he identifies as male, and the volunteers have been so inclusive with that. They have never made him feel bad or less than and that is important.”
Sue and her family are just one of the many families that come to Queens Park each week to feel connected and experience true belonging. The patrons and volunteers have worked hard to build a community of people that not only receives but provides assistance to one another in whatever way they can. Coming together and sharing their experiences, achievements, and hardships helps to lessen the burden and to lighten the spirit.
If you’d like to help Barry and the team support vulnerable people in Ipswich, please donate now.
♥ Name changed to protect patron privacy