That’s all folks!

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One of the hardest but also most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my leadership journey is when to quit.

As the project grew from strength to strength I found myself feeling overwhelmed by its enormity. It started becoming apparent that we were no longer “just a group of volunteers” coming together to “do some good”. Instead we were fast evolving into an organisation with meaning and impact. We were starting to command a following in the community that I hadn’t previously experienced. There is, was and always will be, so much to be proud of.

The decision to call it quits at this stage probably makes little to no sense.

Balancing the demands of the project with the needs of the team started to become unsustainable. Another thing weighing on my mind was the fundamentals. Things like a governance framework that held us legally accountable, the dissolution of the HFB parent body, and lack of funds to keep us in premises long term were all issues too big to ignore. The idea was always to get to a place where we could self fund and become sustainable but this goal demanded a commitment most of the team was unable to contribute.

But it wasn’t for lack of trying. God knows we tried!

To really do the project justice we needed staff, and an office space and a phone line and a website and a business model. When you start looking at the size of effort required to achieve those things, or to even make a start on them you’ll appreciate that some of that just couldn’t be achieved by a team of people, passionate as we were, but otherwise committed to other full time pursuits.

In an ideal world, a bunch of us could’ve quit our jobs, developed a business model for a social impact organisation, pitched it to a group of social entrepreneurs, won the funding dollars needed to re-brand and gone full time into running our social impact enterprise.

Right now is not our ideal world.

So the question on everyone’s minds wasn’t what next, it was, How next?

We did what we always do. Weigh up the pros and cons and started looking at alternatives. One option was to disband the team and support community packing days for interested groups. This quickly lost favour as we realised that the strength of the project was in its continuity.

The option we settled on was one that afforded us the most safety. We opted to extend our existing partnership with Muslim Aid Australia such that the same good work could continue under their banner. This would take care of two of the three bugbears holding us back as HFB.

So that is exactly what we did.

It is with honour that I introduce you to the Community Food Hamper (CFH) project. Led by ex HFB member Faran Ahmed and supported by a whole bunch of the HFB team and our awesome patrons, the Muslim Aid Australia team.

There is no doubt in my mind that this project will exceed the success of Halal Food Bank – Perth. There is much excitement and anticipation for things to come.

Be sure to like their page and start showing some love to the CFH team. You know what they can achieve with your support!

And while you’re there, check out the other projects supported by Muslim Aid Australia. They also do some cool things around the way 🙂

Thanks for everything Perth. It’s been an honour serving you.

From all of us at Halal Food Bank – Perth.

Farewell and we will see you at the next CFH packing day! 🙂

 

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Celebrating 5 years!

Celebrating 5 years!

It’s April, 2012.

5 women are gathered at a house in Bullcreek sipping tea and sharing some afternoon snacks. The host  is nervously running through a bunch of notes she made in preparation for this meeting. It’s her first time meeting these ladies, and she’s excited but extremely nervous about the venture.

The host was me and the group of ladies were the first Halal Food Bank – Perth team.

We gathered at my house to discuss how to kick off Halal Food Bank in Perth. I honestly can’t remember what we discussed but I remember crying. I think it was mostly nerves but I think there was also a lot of passion behind the start of this initiative. Though I’d been a part of the community through myWA for almost 7 years, setting up this project was a first for me. It challenged me in many, many ways least of which was the fact that the project HQ was in Sydney! But there’s something to be said of good intentions.

The group of ladies that surrounded me that day were the first cheerleaders for the project. They got the word out about providing non perishable food relief in boxes on a monthly basis which was a new concept for the Perth muslim community at the time.

Their energy socialised the idea of giving locally and helped me drop my guard about stuff I didn’t know much about. It also paved the way for the first HFB-Perth team to get their bearings and take on the most important part of our journey – the beginning. My gratitude for these women and my initial team is hard to put into words.

Link to 1 year anniversary event

 

Skip ahead four and half years. It’s December, 2016. This time I’m surrounded by another group of motivated, talented and hardworking women at a cafe on Adelaide Terrace. My mind is a torrent of activity and my heart is full. I’ve been working on the HFB Wrap Up series for 2016 so I’ve spent the day picking out project highlights for the year. I am once again lost for words.

We have come so far in this project and done so much!

I start the meeting with my now 1 year old team and I’m overwhelmed with emotion. Maybe it’s a girl thing, or maybe our journey warrants all this emotion but pretty soon, there isn’t a dry eye around the table. After a little while, Nicole claims “I knew Maryam was giong to cry! As soon as she started talking I just knew it!”. Whatever Nicole, I smirk and move on to plans for 2017.

 

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So here we are, June 2017 and Halal Food Bank – Perth is 5 years old. There is a new buzz around the project that is now supported by a team of 19 volunteers. Some of whom you met here. We are packing 200 boxes every month and starting to try out new things, like customised boxes for Shalom House and Mandingo Women’s Association.

The growth of the project makes 2 things glaringly obvious.

  1. Passion works when you work – If you love something, you have to commit to it, even when it gets hard. I’d be lying if I said it’s been a cruisy 5 years working through 3 teams, 3 locations and about a million different operational issues. I’m lucky that challenging situations tend to surface my creativity but I’m also grateful for the dedication of my amazing team. Witnessing the fruits of their hard work is uplifting to say the least.
  2. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail – What happens when you suddenly acquire 19 team members and can’t stop coming up with  ideas for taking the project further and wider? You’re hit with the realisation that strategic planning is an integral part of making sure you’re on the right track. Where are we going? Why are we going there and who’s coming with us? These questions have started to come up and we have all started to look at how sustainable the project is. The other big question on my mind is, how am I going to run a team of 19 people with a full time job and all my other commitments?

I’m suddenly gaining a renewed appreciation for CEOs and other business leaders. What a task!

Quote by Rumi
Look for the answer inside your question!

I once again take to pen and paper to calm the storm of ideas in my mind. After a few planning sessions with the team, we arrive at what we all believe should be the next step of the project. It’s taken a lot out of us but we now have a loose direction for a way forward. Incorporation seems to keep coming up but I can’t ask 19 people and a community of many to follow our loose plans. If we end up incorporating the project it’s going to mean a complete rebrand. There’s a big risk involved in moving this project forward but I don’t want to charge ahead without further consultation.

So – here’s the final output of months of conversation about where to next.

We, the HFB project team, need YOU, our amazing community of supporters to drive our vision forward. We’re canvassing ideas from the wider community so we can better support people in need. Maybe you think there isn’t a single thing we need to change, that’s great! Let us know.

Maybe you think there are a few important areas we should be working in. That’s great too. Just fill out the below form and let us know 🙂

HFB Survey
Help us shape the future of the project

I’m quietly excited about the changes coming up. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and determination but from experience, that’s what this team does best.

To the amazing community of supporters – Thanks for helping us get here.  We’re really looking forward to continuing the journey with you 🙂

Featured!

Featured!

Some exciting news!

We were approached by the Office of Multicultural Interests for their National Volunteers Week feature. My relationship with OMI goes all the way back to 2005 when Shameema and I set up Muslim Youth WA. As part of the incorporation process we were helped along by two very supportive staff at OMI who later introduced us to the Ethnic Youth Advisory Group where we contributed to the development of policies affecting younger members of CALD communities. Looking back, that was a pretty cool thing we were able to do!

By the way,

National Volunteer Week (NVW) is an annual celebration to acknowledge the generous contribution of our nation’s volunteers.

Volunteering Australia

We got our stories and pictures together and sent them off to OMI. Here is the final output (you can click the image to read the full article).

Capture

If you would like to volunteer with us, simply fill out this form.

For more volunteer opportunities around Perth check out the Volunteering WA page.

 

 

The Gratitude Wall has arrived!

When we first moved into our new premises at AIC-Kewdale, we were inspired by the wall art left over from the students at the school.

There was a koala sticker and a heart sticker on a white wall which became central to our creative process. We started talking about how we could best use ‘the wall with the heart’. Soon that idea lent itself to another. Instead of just making use of the aesthetics to enhance our photos, why not make use of the space to enhance the spirit of our project?

What is that spirit? Gratitude.

We are grateful for being able to provide food for people in need. We try to keep this gratitude at the forefront of all our actions, from marketing to one-on-one interactions with each other.

As the project started to grow, the tension of doing more, with more people became obvious. The stress of trying to hit a deadline, or coordinate a large distributed team is very real. But it doesn’t have to demotivate.

It was time to regroup.

The white walls of our new space were just the trick! I decided to utilise the space to start a dialogue with our volunteers. I wanted to ask our volunteers to share what they’re grateful for. We would take their messages and create a Gratitude Wall that served as a constant reminder to take a moment for reflection.

To reflect on all the good things in our lives; like friends, family or a smiley face on our daily take away coffee.

I wanted to create an opportunity for everyone involved in the project to reflect on our blessings, like good health and the ability to nourish our bodies.

Lastly, it is important for each of us to reflect on how far we’ve come in our personal journeys during our time in this project. If I sit down to note all of the ways in which I have personally benefited, I’d be sitting for a long time!

Having a wall of notes full of what other people are grateful for was a tangible way to start the practice of counting our blessings. For those who do this regularly, it would become a way to cement the habit.

Now coming up with the idea and executing it are 2 completely separate things. I think we first talked about this as a group at the start of the year. 5 months later, Medina found an opportunity to execute it during our biggest packing day in 2017.  Because sometimes it takes that long to action good ideas. Thanks Medina!

The response was huge!

Just reading these puts a smile on my face. There’s such a diversity of experience documented here. Some of these are from kids as young as 8. Definitely a great reminder to count our blessings.

Before I leave you today, I want to ask:

What are you grateful for today? 

Postscript: There are many ways of developing a gratitude wall. The one we selected was posted by Instragramer @amandavonp. Thanks Amanda! And thanks Liana for the find 🙂

The Smallest Thing: #HFBClassroom

Sr. Munira said it best when she said: “Whatever little you can contribute, it is a lot.” 

Most don’t realise that the smallest thing can have the biggest impact.

I know that charities and not-for-profits say things like this all the time, so you’ve probably heard it before.

But you haven’t heard anything until you’ve heard Nicole, our Inventory Coordinator, excitedly waving a ten dollar note in the air and shouting, “You don’t understand! Do you know how much food I can buy with this?!” 

A four-year-old giving a dollar from their piggy bank doesn’t comprehend the gravity of their donation…but we do when we are able to stack can, after can, after can onto our shelves.

Even something as small as a kind word about our project has created waves for us, allowing us to expand our reach into the community.

Almost all of our new volunteers and contributors tell us that they heard about our project from their friends and family.

Because one person bothered to say something kind about the work we are so passionate about, we are able to pack 200 boxes worth of food every single month.

Because one person bothered to say something kind, we are continuously given more space to grow and connect with our community.

Never underestimate the small things. After all, trees start out as nothing but seeds.

See what Sr. Munira had to say about bringing the HFB initiative to her school below:

If you’d like to do something similar at your school or would simply like to know how to make this initiative your own, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us: hfbperth@gmail.com

Welcome to the HFB Classroom!

Believe it or not, one of the strongest foundations of our project has always been kids!

Whether they are as young as five-years-old or being dragged in by their parents as teens, kids have always been present within the HFB-Perth space.

20170324_144010-01“HFB Classroom” was born from continuous support of local Perth schools. Whether it’s parents and the P&C, the teachers or the students themselves, schools have been taking on our project and making the initiative their own to ensure that their community does not go without food.

In March, we had the honour of hosting a mini-packing day at the Langford Islamic College (LIC). They raised 26 boxes worth of food for us with the fundraising left entirely in the hands of the students.

Four LIC students joined us at our March packing day to see the process through in its entirety and sat down to tell us how they went!

Check out what they had to say below: