Australian Baha'i Sites

An insight into life on the streets: Darwin’s junior youth deliver meals to those sleeping rough

When Darwin’s Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program (JYSEP) group rallied together to think up their summer service project, “it was hard to find just one that everyone agreed on”.

“So we got a piece of butcher’s paper, and we wrote four different categories with (the) problems we think we have in Darwin, where we live,” JYSEP participant Eli says.

“Once we decided on four, we thought more deeper things about those ideas and chose what we wanted to do.”

The group ultimately decided to dedicate their project to those most in need in Darwin, raising initial funds through a special market stall and going on to create Christmas meals for those sleeping it rough on their city streets.

“We made potato salads, sausages, gingerbread and ham,” says JYSEP participant John.

“And garlic bread!” Eli adds.

The Darwin community rallied together to create meal packs for those in need.

“There was lots of planning in advance,” participant Tallulah says. The group raised $300 at the markets, before creating about 60 meal packs with the help of families and friends and hand delivering them all around town.

Darwin is known for its large community of long grassers – individuals who travel from remote communities to the city and set up base in the streets, bushlands and urban fringe.

“In Darwin you have a really large transient population coming in from remote communities,” JYSEP parent Leva Azadi Goodfellow says. “While they might actually have a home, when they’re in Darwin, they might not have anywhere to stay.”

While the junior youth say they were “scared” at first to approach some of these individuals and gift them with a warm meal, they ended the day with a sense of deep pride.

“At first we were kind of scared to just go to other people on the street and give them food,” Eli says. “But then, we went to a group of people sitting down and we gave them food, and one of them got up and did a traditional dance to thank us.”

“Eventually we started getting more confident.”

Tallulah says the experience was eye-opening, providing an “insight into the needy”.

“It made me feel pretty proud afterwards,” Tallulah adds. “We had put so much effort into it and it actually worked out as we had planned and they were all really kind. “We were all feeling quite proud after.”

John agreed that “it felt pretty good”.

The Darwin Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program aims to solidify young people’s sense of purpose, develop their powers of expression, and empower them to contribute towards the needs of their neighbourhood.

According to the last census, 13,104 people were homeless in the Northern Territory – the highest rate of any jurisdiction in the country and almost 12 times the national average.

Leva says it was important for the junior youth to have participated in a project that stretched them beyond their comfort zone.

“To do something that was a little bit uncomfortable, and step into that space and then get such positive feedback from people – that’s so beautiful, and they were blown away by the end.”

The Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program assists young people to discover their true purpose. Through regular sessions with a trusted animator, the junior youth are able to develop their powers of expression, strengthen friendships, and explore how best to serve the needs of their community.

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Darwin

The Top End Baha'i community includes Darwin and Palmerston communities, is home to many diverse multicultural neighbourhoods, and is part of traditional Larrakia country.

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Published in March, 2024, in Community Stories > Community Building

Available online at: horizons.bahai.org.au/community-stories/darwins-junior-youth-deliver-meal-packs-to-those-sleeping-it-rough/

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