Meet our Participants

At the heart of Many Rooms is a desire to model a generous welcome. This is not just about providing a meal for those in need. It seeks to bring participants and volunteers together, and for all to know they are significant and cared for. As people feel at home at The Kitchen, some get involved as volunteers and so feel even more a part of what The Kitchen is all about. Below we present several stories of participants, three of whom are also volunteers.

Faraj (Frank) Jusuf Hannoush

Faraj (Frank) Jusuf Hannoush at The Kitchen

Frank is a regular at the Saturday Kitchen and has been coming for almost four years. He is often the first to arrive for breakfast at 8.45am, even though he lives in Broadmeadows.

Frank was born in Baghdad, in Iraq in 1954. His parents were both Christian (Chaldean Catholic) and as a two year old, he was baptized into this faith. He sometimes goes to the Chaldean church in Campbellfield, but goes more regularly to St Francis Catholic church in the city.

From the age of 19, Frank worked in the Iraqi Army, serving his country for 18 years and participating in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) and the first Gulf War (1991). He achieved the rank of Sergeant. Most of his work in the army was as a boiler mechanic in power stations, a key military asset. Once he was hit by a bomb and injured his arm, and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital. He still has a scar to show where he was patched up. Since many of his fellow Iraqis lost their lives in these wars, he considers himself fortunate that he survived with no permanent disability.

After leaving the army, in 1994 he married an Iraqi girl called Salwa and worked in civilian roles in power stations until he left Iraq in 1999. Frank came to Australia as a refugee and was granted residency three years later. One of the reasons for leaving was that he was fearful that he would be re-drafted back into the army and face retribution if he did not comply. He first came to Australia by himself, and only later brought out his wife and daughter. He has very happy memories of the day (Valentine’s day) when he was told that he was granted permanent residency and that he could apply to bring his family out. He is very grateful to Australia: ‘Very good, beautiful country, people. Can find job, all family here’.

Frank is very proud of his daughter, who is now 21. She lives with her mum (Frank and his wife are separated) but she visits Frank every week. His daughter works at the airport and has plans to study business. He enjoys the Saturday Kitchen and all the people he meets there. He also likes the fact that we are able to share about Jesus Christ which he sees as ‘the most important thing’. Frank hopes that things might improve in his old country of origin: ‘I hope and pray it will come up good. We need love. I know war – no one wins with war. Iran-Iraq – who won? I hope not more war’.

Interview done with Jim Davison with assistance of Arabic translation by Moussa Saad.

Peter Gudgeon

Peter Gudeon at The Kitchen

Peter is often found at The Kitchen on a Saturday chatting with other participants and sometimes helping the volunteer staff in the kitchen. He freely pours into the community his attention, time and talents.

Growing up in Melbourne with two brothers and one sister, Peter learned early on about having faith in God. He has fond memories of his father and remembers both of them glued to the television as Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon.

When it was time for Peter to make some decisions about his life, his father asked him what his next step would be. Peter had already made up his mind, “Honestly, I want to go into the Army.” And off to the Army he went. Stationed at Puckapunyal, near Seymour in Victoria – he entered in as a reserve, later progressing to the regulars. He believes the army was a good move for him. It gave him a sense of direction and taught him about authority. Some people have a difficult time submitting to authority, but Peter doesn’t mind it. Instead, the challenge for Peter came every morning at 5am during basic training. He arose each morning before dawn and strapped on a full backpack and ran for 1 or 2 miles.  Peter made it through basic training and quickly learned he loved the creativity often found in cooking. He followed this passion and cooked while serving in the army for 9 years and sometimes he would cook for 800 people at a time.

His experience in the army, along with his talents and passions have equipped for the tasks he finds himself performing these days. When Peter isn’t at The Kitchen, he enjoys meeting residents at the Newmarket Retirement Village on Mondays through Thursdays while he volunteers in there kitchen for lunch. He also volunteers at Make a Wish Foundation, which he’s been doing for the last year and half, talking to the kids undergoing treatment at the Royal Children’s Hospital and their parents. He feels sad when he sees people suffer, and he finds it hard when he hears that one of the children has passed away. But he has also seen how God works in difficult situations. Once he was speaking to a guy for half an hour who was upset about his son who had a rare blood disorder. He discovered the man was also a Christian, and Peter was able to encourage him at that time. The child is now recovering – “It is great to see how happy they are after things get better.” He also likes to make the kids laugh by playing the joker, “You‘ve got to have a bit of a laugh… their parents tell me thank you for making my little girl laugh.”

Peter finds himself at yet another pivotal moment in his life. Four years ago at a bible study fellowship at Planetshakers Church, Peter met a special woman. And like many years previous, Peter has made up his mind about the next step. He is engaged to Anita Marie and they plan to be married in October.

Darlene

Darlene at Many Rooms Bowling outing

Darlene is a regular participant at The Kitchen and also The Studio art group.

Darlene was born in Melbourne the third child in her family and grew up in West Footscray after a brief stint in Warburton.  She has memories of walking to school on her own and having a happy and fun if sometimes mischievous childhood, and got on well with her siblings and her extended family. She also remembers getting glasses in Grade 3 – ‘they were pink and like Dame Edna’s!’

She was a bit of a tomboy growing up – she swapped her pig tale ties for marbles in the school yard, but still had a love of stuffed toys. She particularly loved the smurfs and had a ‘whole village of them’. She had close friends at school who lived down the road from her house.

Darlene was always interested in art and doing things with her hands. She kept scrapbooks, cutting things out that she liked and pasting them in, sketching and colouring in and craft activities. She especially liked making ‘stained glass flowers’ using wire frames, firing the glass in the oven.

Darlene went to High school in Braybrook with her older brother and sister. She liked it, but it was at high school at the age of 14 that symptoms of her Touretts syndrome emerged and this had a very negative impact on her life.

Touretts syndrome involves chemical reactions in the brain that cause involuntary behavioural issues like swearing, repeating phrases, twitches and tics, similar to obsessive compulsive disorder. In the early stages it was not diagnosed as it was not widely known about and she received anti-psychotic drugs in different hospitals in Melbourne. She still remembers sitting in the office with her mum and being told she had ‘Gillies de la Touretts syndrome’ and being scared that it might be a terminal illness. She was picked on at school and doesn’t remember much of that time because of the disruption that the drug regime and the illness caused.  The drugs led to her gaining weight. Later on she lost an eye from an assault in 1996.

Darlene says she’s now ‘learned to live with Touretts’,  (she nicknames it ‘Terry’) and sees it as an inconvenience more than a disability. She lives day by day, and manages Terry by removing herself from stressful environments and sticking to the familiar spots in her local neighbourhood where she is known.  Being accepted is important: ‘some people are frightened of the way she is… a lot of people don’t know how to react… people need to give me a go’. Laughing at Terry is also good: ‘ he can be very funny sometimes!’

Darlene doesn’t go to church partly because of the embarrassment about her illness, but she believes in God and prays to him. She sometimes gets down about her illness and sometimes friends have turned their backs on her but is grateful for the support she has had from her carer Rick who lives with her in a two bedroom public housing house in Flemington and is her closest friend . ‘I can talk to him about anything and everything’.

Her hopes for the future are to get through two major operations, and to lose weight. She also is looking forward to art classes to start again. ‘ I want to be happy and live life to the max’.

Jimmy and ‘The Buncle Street Jump’!

Jimmy at The Kitchen

One of our participants, Jimmy Vost, has been an intermittent but important presence at The Kitchen from the start.  In fact, it was a discussion between Jimmy and The Kitchen’s founder, Chris Griffieon at a drop in centre in St Kilda (where Chris was volunteering at the time) that was to form the genesis of the idea for The Kitchen. Jimmy had remarked about the lack of places to go for homeless and low income people on the north-western side of town, especially on the weekends. Jimmy is a local identity and is a passionate supporter of the North Melbourne Football Club. He moved back into this area to live about 5 years ago. He is actively involved at the local community group. He loves to sing and write.

Last year he wrote a poem singing the praises of The Kitchen. Although some of the details are now a bit out of date (The City on a Hill offices have now moved to Queen Street from Docklands and we’ve now moved to a four week roster!) it’s a great testimony to the fact that it is the relationships we have with participants, formed over a meal, that makes The Kitchen special.

The Buncle Street Jump Where you get a great lunch Be there or be square There’s plenty of food to spare I look forward to Saturdays To meet up with James and Sundry Merchant Street Docklands Has five lots of Hands (Teams) Sam from City on a Hill Cooks up a Storm Hot meal in Winter Salads in Summer Erin, Mim, Joan and others Are volunteers along with Todd And Daniel and Fiona Which is nothing Odd With Fruit platters There is something to take Home From the Buncle Street Jump Where you get a great Lunch

born in Germany but has lived in the Essendon / Ascot Vale area since about 1966. She currently lives in Travancore with her father and daughter. Ingrid is an avid singer belonging to the Wingate Ave Singers which sing at nursing homes. She is also a member of the Choir of hope and Inspiration. She attends St Georges in Travancore and volunteers at the local Op Shop.
Ingrid first heard about Many Rooms through the Ozanam house sandwich program,. She has been attending almost since the beginning. She really loves the weekly program for both the very yummy food and also the friendly and caring volunteers that she meets each week. Like Jimmy, Ingrid is a keen advocate for the Kitchen program in the North Melbourne
born in Germany but has lived in the Essendon / Ascot Vale area since about 1966. She currently lives in Travancore with her father and daughter. Ingrid is an avid singer belonging to the Wingate Ave Singers which sing at nursing homes. She is also a member of the Choir of hope and Inspiration. She attends St Georges in Travancore and volunteers at the local Op Shop.
Ingrid first heard about Many Rooms through the Ozanam house sandwich program,. She has been attending almost since the beginning. She really loves the weekly program for both the very yummy food and also the friendly and caring volunteers that she meets each week. Like Jimmy, Ingrid is a keen advocate for the Kitchen program in the North Melbourne

Lyn

Lyn and Bulldog Bill

Lyn has been a volunteer for just over a year at The Kitchen and is one of the few volunteers who helps out on a weekly basis to set up the tea and coffee. She describes herself as a happy-golucky person. She likes word puzzles, knitting, outings and barbeques. Her main passions in life are her partner, Fred, and the Carlton Football Club. She first came along to The Kitchen when she found out about it from friends going to Ozanam Community Centre, and ‘absolutely loved it’. While the food is good, she mainly comes because of the people. ‘You can talk about your life and say how you feel. In the outside world, other people don’t give you the time of day. But here it has a good atmosphere – better than watching the idiot box!’.

Lyn says she was a ‘pretty normal kid’ growing up, and didn’t give much concern about the homeless and those doing it tough. She admits she liked a drink and to gamble. It was her experience of health troubles of her own that made her realize that ‘it wasn’t the way to live’. She also decided to get involved in volunteering at her local Broadmeadows drop-in service, setting up, serving coffees and talking to the people who come along. ‘This woke me up – these street kids are human just as I am’, she says. She now also volunteers at Ozanam Community Centre. Being part of the regular community means that she gets to know people well, and sometimes people ask her for advice. She loves the experience of helping and knowing when it made a difference for the good. She is particularly happy when people express their gratitude, but it goes beyond that –‘Every time I did something it’s God who tells me I’ve done something good’.

born in Germany but has lived in the Essendon / Ascot Vale area since about 1966. She currently lives in Travancore with her father and daughter. Ingrid is an avid singer belonging to the Wingate Ave Singers which sing at nursing homes. She is also a member of the Choir of hope and Inspiration. She attends St Georges in Travancore and volunteers at the local Op Shop.
Ingrid first heard about Many Rooms through the Ozanam house sandwich program,. She has been attending almost since the beginning. She really loves the weekly program for both the very yummy food and also the friendly and caring volunteers that she meets each week. Like Jimmy, Ingrid is a keen advocate for the Kitchen program in the North Melbourne

Tim

Tim

Tim can remember the first time he came to The Kitchen in March 2010, and is such a regular participant he can virtually name the times he’s missed a Saturday. Tim started volunteering that year, helping to set up tables and chairs and spending time praying for the Kitchen with other volunteers. Tim lives in the local public housing estate, and has been there twenty years this year. He describes himself as a very sociable person and spends a lot of time going to cafes in the local Kensington area. It also doesn’t take long to realize that Tim is also an ardent Christian. Tim attends Ascot Vale Church of Christ and preaches there once a month. ‘I share my faith in Jesus and what he’s done. I’m an evangelist, but I’m more than that – I give of myself to others’. He became a Christian after a family member experienced healing in Sunshine Methodist church in the mid-1970s. Tim came to Australia from Croatia as a child and had to learn English from scratch as a 7 year old. At 16 he was a table tennis champion of his school but left shortly after to be an apprentice with his father, a clothing manufacturer. Unfortunately in his late teens he got sick and wasn’t able to continue his apprenticeship and job. He faced a number of admissions to hospital with mental illness, and also stints where he was homeless on the streets. But throughout this, he never lost his faith in God. He remains thankful to Him for the faith, grace and strength to endure, and for his mother who cared for him in difficult times. Today things are more stable for him, with supports in place from family, church and other sources. He is a big fan of the Kitchen and the regular community it brings. ‘I love being with people I can love and respect. It is a blessing to have this place every Saturday’.

born in Germany but has lived in the Essendon / Ascot Vale area since about 1966. She currently lives in Travancore with her father and daughter. Ingrid is an avid singer belonging to the Wingate Ave Singers which sing at nursing homes. She is also a member of the Choir of hope and Inspiration. She attends St Georges in Travancore and volunteers at the local Op Shop.
Ingrid first heard about Many Rooms through the Ozanam house sandwich program,. She has been attending almost since the beginning. She really loves the weekly program for both the very yummy food and also the friendly and caring volunteers that she meets each week. Like Jimmy, Ingrid is a keen advocate for the Kitchen program in the North Melbourne

Frank

Frank at The Kitchen

Frank has been coming along to The Kitchen for the last two years and comes pretty much every week. Frank was born in Shepparton and came to Melbourne when he was 8 years old. He went to school in the northern suburbs. For the last year, Frank has been a distributor for Herbalife and works his own hours. Frank has a big interest in remote-control aircraft. The interest started with modeling balsa wood and tissue aeroplanes, but has recently moved towards helicopters. He also enjoys go-karting, going to the movies, Ten-pin bowling, playing squash and swimming. Frank finds the meals a highlight and is a fan of the lasagna and the fruit salad and ice-cream. ‘It is great to have someone cook a meal for you. It gets me out of the house on a weekend when there’s not much to do’. He also enjoys socializing and speaking with the volunteers. ‘What I’ve learned is not to prejudge people. Once you get to know them they have an interesting story. They have a lot more to them than what their circumstances are’.

born in Germany but has lived in the Essendon / Ascot Vale area since about 1966. She currently lives in Travancore with her father and daughter. Ingrid is an avid singer belonging to the Wingate Ave Singers which sing at nursing homes. She is also a member of the Choir of hope and Inspiration. She attends St Georges in Travancore and volunteers at the local Op Shop.
Ingrid first heard about Many Rooms through the Ozanam house sandwich program,. She has been attending almost since the beginning. She really loves the weekly program for both the very yummy food and also the friendly and caring volunteers that she meets each week. Like Jimmy, Ingrid is a keen advocate for the Kitchen program in the North Melbourne