PEOPLE don’t realise how others around them suffer, says volunteer Vivienne Steur.
She lived in the Karawara-Manning area for 10 years before seeing the poverty that plagued her own backyard.
As Waterford Plaza centre manager, she first noticed the scale of the problem two years ago.
“We have such a high crime rate in the Plaza – people were walking across the road from Karawara into Coles and IGA and walking out with trolley loads of food,” Steur said.
“I thought: ‘Enough is enough – we need to do something to help these people’ and so I got involved with the police and other community groups and it all boiled down to the fact that these people were hungry.
“Whether they can’t manage their money properly or have other problems wasn’t really an issue for me – I can’t fix poverty or help them with drug addiction or whatever else might be going on, but I can help them by giving them food.”
Steur obtained bread and eggs from supermarkets and items such as pasta, sauce and milk with help from Rotary and Foodbank WA.
She went on to develop the HOME (Hope, Opportunity, Mutuality, Empowerment) Karawara collective, with Waterford Plaza, City of South Perth, Richmond Wellbeing and other groups, and now has a storeroom on Manning Road brimming with goods from sources including the community.
“We have one gentleman who used to steal quite often – he hasn’t stolen now for 12 months and feels very liberated – and when he has a bit of money he comes back in and gives me $10 or $20 and says: ‘You helped me out in the last couple of weeks and I want to give you this money’,” Steur said.
“I say ‘I can’t take this money, you need it’ and he says ‘No, I have to give back now – you’ve changed my life’.
“Hearing little things like that reminds me that I am actually making a difference.”
Steur also initiated a Breakfast Club to help feed students at Curtin Primary School.
“We found out that many kids were going without breakfast and a couple of families had no lunch as well, so now we provide them with bread, which they can freeze, and things like cheese and bacon rolls and the teachers are able to warm them up and give the kids something,” she said.
The inspiring volunteer also held a backpack school drive, giving underprivileged children new backpacks filled with books, lunch boxes, pencils and more.
With winter coming, HOME Karawara is now calling for blanket donations.
Steur is nominated for the People’s Choice ‘Spirit of Volunteering’ Award at the WA Volunteer of the Year Awards this week.