A humble mission focused on putting friends first
When the pandemic hit hard in 2020, Muhamed Elkadi decided to turn the rough patch he was going through into a moment to take control of his life and find his purpose.
Involving himself in volunteer work, his sister Shaymaa Elkadi said her brother not only “couldn’t believe” how long the lines at an emergency crisis service were but also why a local bakery was “throwing away bins and bins of fresh bread” at the end of the day.
“He had just seen these lines of people who had nothing to eat, let alone fresh bread. So, he said he would take it without a plan of where he was going to distribute it,” Shaymaa said.
Making a split-second decision to approach the bakery and continue around to other local stores to collect donations, Muhamed created a team of founding volunteers to help support their homeless “friends” in the East Melbourne community.
And from one Saturday in September 2020, Shaymaa and Muhamed were at Batman Park with a “couple of tables topped with [their] mum’s rice pudding in containers” and fresh bread, creating what was the start of the CBD community service, The Humble Mission.
“We started posting on Facebook to see whether people would donate a bit more and it was all about the timing and people feeling that in the middle of COVID they needed something to connect to,” Shaymaa said.
We received an overwhelming response on social media to the point where we set up a specific volunteer network page which now has more than 400 people on it.
Operating as a full market set up with pre-cooked meals, fresh bread, drinks and clothing to take away, The Humble Mission now also organises an on-the-day lunch, coffee, tea and haircuts for people attending.
The support from the community in helping the friends in the area has been so immense that there is now a health station after a nurse reached out wanting to do her part.
“We always worry every Saturday if we are going to have enough, but somehow we always have enough and more than enough,” Shaymaa said.
“And nothing goes to waste because anything left over gets delivered to the hotels that are currently housing the homeless as part of the COVID strategy to keep people off the street.”
Permitted to continue offering their services throughout lockdowns, due to their dedication to limiting volunteer numbers, abiding by COVID protocols and permits, The Humble Mission has helped some of their friends through the toughest, most vulnerable times.
Connecting people together in order for everyone in the community to survive and thrive.
It’s how Lisette Malatesta, owner and operator of the East Melbourne General Store, first became involved in 2021.
When the East Melbourne Neighbourhood Network, headed by Sue Henderson, curated an art exhibition for a homeless woman called Painter, Lisette became connected to assisting the artist with accommodation and medical services.
Lisette then came to meet Muhamed and Shaymaa from The Humble Mission through Painter, and wanted to think of “a way [she] could assist them.”
Now having her store assigned as a pick-up point, Lisette acts as a liaison between The Humble Mission and people who are interested in donating meals or various other products to the cause.
“I will chat to people about when is the most appropriate time to drop things off and I give them a bit of guidance on the type of food that is helpful as a lot of people in the position [of those who attend] have issues with their teeth or can be limited in their opportunity to heat food up,” Lisette said.
“I have a great deal of respect for everyone involved and the work they are doing. It’s a true grassroots organisation.”
More than happy to accept any donation people are willing to give – from groceries to socks and jocks – Lisette said The Humble Mission also went “beyond” supporting people with practical resources.
“If people don’t have access to friends and family, The Humble Mission can fill that gap for them. It’s a place for people to socialise, feel welcomed and like a part of mainstream society,” she said.
Grateful for the expansive team now behind the mission, Shaymaa assures that “every bit counts.”
“The people initially asking for help seemed really isolated and so it was about creating a connection and making the people that come along – our friends – feel like they weren’t forgotten,” she said.
“We want to create dignity in the experience.”
The Humble Mission meets with its local community every Saturday between 1.30pm to 3pm at Batman Park.
As a grassroots organisation, it is also open to any ideas that can aid in helping it better provide for the friends of East Melbourne and the local surrounding areas •
To help with donations or to get involved with volunteering, visit thehumblemission.com