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Prestigious Volunteer Award

Posted: 29-May-2019

Many in the OLMC community will have read about or participated in the Bell Bardia Community Meals Project run by volunteer students and staff from OLMC. Led and coordinated by Marie Jenkins, Clair Stapley and Teresa Clarke-Balazs, the volunteers (up to 80 people on rosters) prepare more than 100 substantial meals every week for people who live in West Heidelberg, in a ‘pocket of disadvantage’ where there is significant generational poverty and unemployment. 

The meal preparation begins in the OLMC Food Studies kitchens on Wednesdays. A group of Year 9 students chop, peel, mix or crumb the various ingredients ready for the cook. After school on Wednesday, the prepared ingredients are then transported to the Olympic Adult Education community kitchen in West Heidelberg, A group of senior students and staff then work to fully prepare the meal, dish it up in family size containers and deliver it to three locations in West Heidelberg for pick-up. During school holidays, teachers and admin staff fill in for the students who have a well-earned rest. In the last 12 months, 80 senior secondary students have volunteered and more than 5000 meals have been provided to residents.

On Sunday 19 May, the Project received the Banyule Council’s 2019 Volunteer Community Award. Eighteen community groups doing exceptional work had been nominated for this award, so it was a notable tribute to OLMC. College representatives Marie Jenkins, Clair Stapley and Teresa Clarke-Balazs accepted this honour on behalf of the College. 

The project was nominated for the award by Ms Suzanne Crellin, Community Development Manager, Olympic Adult Education. In her submission and in the conferral speech of the Banyule Council Mayor, the Bell Bardia Community Meals Project was attributed the following accolades:

With a minimum of fuss, this project has become an outstanding community volunteer achievement, making a meaningful and effective contribution to pockets of a community that are in need and who appreciate the outcomes! It is a quiet achieving program which deserves recognition.  

The meals are balanced, tasty and very popular because they are plain, simple, traditional Australian home style fare. Other positive community impacts include health benefits and reducing social isolation. For some regular ‘customers’, meeting at the drop off point is a chance for social interaction and people have even been known to go to each others’ home to eat together. The girls who volunteer in the program are learning about social justice as well how to budget and cook a healthy family meal.
The project is a good example of a successful, long term partnership between OLMC, Olympic Adult Education (which is a registered charity) and Bendigo Bank funding. However, it is the volunteers who make it happen every week, arranging menus, registering meal requests, shopping for food, cooking, packaging, delivering the meals and providing a friendly point of contact for the people who collect them. The program would not exist if not for the goodwill and efforts of the volunteers. 
The College congratulates all staff and students involved in this highly regarded program.

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