Care and compassion Generosity People

Breakfasts, dinners and dignity

The Compassion Soup Kitchen building on the corner of Tory and Haining Streets in central Wellington.

The Wellington Compassion Soup Kitchen annual appeal on May 25 gives locals an opportunity to show the continued generosity that has supported it for 117 years.

Every year the kitchen provides 9000 breakfasts (that’s 35-45 people every morning) and 18,000 dinners (45-75 people). There is an emphasis on healthy eating.

The kitchen provides breakfast and dinner – no questions asked – six days a week in the centre of Wellington.

Breakfast is soup and bread and provided free. Dinner is protein (sometimes vegetarian), and lots of steamed vegetables. A charge of $2 is made for dinner.

Levi prepares vegetables for the soup that will be served at the next morning’s breakfast.

In the commercial kitchen Paul prepares a chicken, bacon and mushroom casserole for dinner.

Enabling a life with dignity

On Friday, May 25, collectors will be stationed around Wellington CBD (including the railway station), Porirua and the Hutt Valley so locals can donate to the registered charity which does not receive Government funding.

Manager Karen Holland says the organisation’s mission is to support people in need to live with dignity in the community. Many are marginalised so isolation and loneliness can be a real issue, she says.

The Sisters of Compassion-owned site is a stone’s throw from the very first soup kitchen established by the sisters’ legendary founder, Mother Aubert.

The Compassion Soup Kitchen in Tory Street has become a home base for many of those who attend, where they are known as guests or whānau.

It is often the first point of contact with the various agencies they may need to contact. The organisation has two social workers, one whose sole role is to provide support to whānau.

It also provides computers and online access, so vital for people needing to update their CVs or communicate with other organisations, especially government agencies.

‘Tupaia’ the new garden

Compassion Soup Kitchen manager Karen Holland in the new Te Māra urban garden which has already contributed to the menu.

The new Te Māra urban vegetable garden next door is starting to provide produce to the kitchen and also a space for learning. It gives opportunities to learn about composting, propagation, organics and sustainability. A key purpose of the urban garden is to provide a sense of belonging and ownership to the homeless.

Volunteers important

An important part of the organisation are the 250 volunteers who help in many ways, from setting the tables and arranging flowers on each to serving meals, working in the garden and collecting on appeal day.

Joan and Yelena are among the volunteers and were setting tables and arranging flowers when the Daily Encourager visited.

Joan brings flowers from her garden and the garden she helps tend at her church.

She says the soup kitchen operation is well organised and the premises kept pristine, just as Mother Aubert would expect.

Joan is in awe of Mother Aubert who gave up a life in France to travel to New Zealand for a mission that lasted 66 years.

“If we can do a little bit of what she did,” Joan says.

She is also motivated by Muhammad Ali’s quotation:

The service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth”.

How you can help

Apart from giving money on appeal day, donations of fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk, yoghurt and herbs are welcome. Staples always needed are rice, lentils, canned tomatoes and fruit salad, flour, sugar, instant coffee, tea, pasta, spices and dried herbs. Supermarket and petrol vouchers are also very welcome to assist the guests and meet some of the volunteers’ expenses.

Karen says lots of people are “very generous” for specific projects but the street appeal money goes to operational expenses.

Volunteer collectors are needed for the appeal. For more information email [email protected] with your preferred time and location or phone Paula 021 1811 862.

Telling their stories

You can read stories of those who have experienced homelessness in Te Hā Tangata, published last year. It sells for $29.95 via the Soup Kitchen, Home of Compassion or their websites.

Who was Mother Aubert?

Suzanne Aubert was born near Lyon in France in 1835.

In 1859 Bishop Pompallier visited Lyon (his hometown) to recruit missionaries for his Auckland diocese.

Suzanne accepted the invitation and sailed to New Zealand in 1860.

An information panel in the dining room tells the story of founder Mother Aubert who left France for mission life in New Zealand.

In the 1880s she went to Hiruhārama (Jerusalem) on the Whanganui River to revive the Catholic mission there.

In 1892 Wellington-based Archbishop Redwood appointed Suzanne as Mother Superior of the newly established Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion.

In 1899 Suzanne and two Sisters moved to Wellington and began their work with the suffering and destitute of the city, opening a home in Buckle Street for disabled people, running a soup kitchen from it and opening a crèche nearby for the children of working parents.

Land was bought in Island Bay and in 1907 the Home of Compassion opened, initially to care for children and babies.

Mother Aubert died in 1926. There were huge crowds at her funeral in Wellington. Condolences poured in from around the world.

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