It sounds pretty cliche, but when people asked me what I wanted to do when I was older, I had no idea but I always knew I wanted to help people.
I’ve been in hospitality for about 10 years and I’ve seen firsthand how much food wastage there is. When I heard about the free store up in Wellington about two years ago it was a no brainer. I went up there to volunteer and to see if it was viable to start something similar down here.
It was an 18 month process setting up Kairos Free Store. I was really lucky; the land, the container, the builders and the labour were all donated for free. The community really came together to make this possible. It was long hours and long days because I also work full time, but my biggest challenge was actually finding volunteers to staff it.
We’ve been running now for six months and we have a really cool core team of volunteers. What I think is really special is that the customers are starting to volunteer as well. People who were lining up to get food are asking ‘what can we help you with?’ Whether its watering the garden or pushing the trolley around town to collect the food, they want to be involved. The whole point was to create a community – a relational thing – not just transactional.
It’s such a diverse group of people that turn up to the store, there are homeless people, students, travellers, families, single parents. There’s really an eclectic bunch who are just kind of ‘doing life’ together. You rub shoulders with people you may not normally socialise with and you build strong friendships with people. They become regular faces, and they come down for the conversations, probably more than the food sometimes.
I’ve lived in New Zealand for 12 years, and been in Christchurch for the last five. I just love Christchurch, not many cities get the chance to re-invent themselves. I guess my part is to reinforce a sense of community. When I get more volunteers, I’d love to open more nights a week. Long term plans… who knows. Maybe a free cafe?