Category Archives: In Australia

Volunteering for Christmas and feeding the homeless every week

In my last newsletter and just before Christmas I put out a call for volunteers to help with the preparation and service of lunch on Christmas Day at Gethsemane Community in Petersham. It’s my usual Christmas Day gig – and as the year wound up, I took on the additional duties of trying to organise the volunteers for The Christmas Project. Read more and see the video to refresh your memory.

Making Christmas Day 2015 a joy for community, volunteers and homeless people

Here’s how it happened – starring  Zulu’s Community/Sue, Gethsemane/Myree, Vic, Our Big Kitchen, Live, Love, Learn and volunteers

  • I offered to assist Gethsemane Community‘s Sr Myree Harris to find and co-ordinate volunteers for Christmas Day and also to help fellow volunteer, Vic, with the sorting and delivery of hampers to boarding houses around the inner west.
  • I contacted Our Big Kitchen to ask for help in finding volunteers for the day and also to supply vegetables for the making of salads for the lunch.
  • OBK put the word out on their Facebook page and also introduced Live, Love, Learn – a children’s art program, who co-incidently were going to be making cookies and gift bags on Christmas Eve for (ideally) homeless and disadvantaged people on Christmas Day – but did not have a recipient. Divine providence was at work here as this perfect match was made! On Christmas Eve, I went to OBK to collect 100 beautifully decorated cookie bags and thank the 85 children who prepared these package. The afternoon was spent doing the final packing of gift bags and hamper deliveries to boarding houses.
  • My nephew, Tim, helped me prepare 3 industrial sized salads (in a tiny kitchen) for the Christmas Day lunch.
  • On Christmas Day, around 35 volunteers assisted to put on a memorable day for around 80 visitors and their carers, preparing and serving a delicious feast and truly enjoying each other’s company.

That’s the power of community, collaboration and co-operation – and Zulu’s Community.

Thank you to everyone who contributed goods, gifts, food, time, energy, attention and support to make this day run so smoothy and so well.  

On going – Sue and Vic team up to feed Sydney’s homeless

One of the key outcomes of this short but intense lead up to this festive season service is, that after 4 years of volunteering for Gethsemane, a very key connection was made. Vic, who has worked with Myree for 6 years with the running of Christmas Day lunch, was -dare I say, shocked and surprised that I could ‘take over’ and run things so smoothly and drama-free.


When Vic asked for my input into a community lunch that he has run for 3 years at a church in Darlinghurst, I said yes.

Each Thursday, Vic and a small team of volunteers prepare and serve fruit salad, burgers or sandwiches and coffee to around 40 homeless people. I have been volunteering most Thursdays now, and during his university break, so has Tim.

These few hours have become an important way for me to keep grounded and connected to my community. I look forward to this time and prioritise it, because it’s a tangible, practical way to serve my fellow human beings. I help feed people without any other agenda than to make a difference IN that moment.

We are a small team – from 4-7 people each week and this motley crew, called the ‘dream team’, are a really lovely bunch. It’s a small, but mighty effort – and we need more volunteers in our dream team.


If you can contribute 2.5 hours on a Thursday morning, even if it’s now and then, to assist us with feeding a small segment of Sydney’s homeless community – please contact me and I’ll connect you with Vic, who will be thrilled to have you as part of the ‘dream team’.


Here’s what Monica Olander from C3 Church said about Accidental Aid Worker:  Just finished reading your book Accidental Aid Worker. Thank you for sharing your journey – not just a how-to on becoming involved in community work – but a very raw, personal & honest account of your emotional, spiritual, physical & mental journey of life. Funny, tragic & inspirational all rolled into one, I admire your vulnerability, down-to-earth attitude and your courage to face both mountains and valleys, and to traverse them both. What a pleasure to get to know you further through reading your memoirs and of course, to have you on our team at our C3 Cares Community Lunch. You are greatly appreciated & I’m looking forward to Book No. 2!

Candles for Community 2014 – for Sri Lanka, Cambodia AND a book project!

Ordering between: November 4 – 15 December for your Christmas delivery.

It’s a short campaign this year with less than 7 weeks to order your candles and gifts ( and counting down!) If you think “Ah…I have plenty of time..” well you may, but don’t leave it too late. Last orders will be taken on 15 December with the very last dispatch on  18 December.

As well as some of your favorites, I’ve introduced some newbies to the range! This year I have introduced:

  • A new flavour – Gardenia! It has already been popular with all of my lucky testers receiving samples – and loving that fresh, floral scent so much, I added it for everyone to enjoy!
  • HOT Pink now joins the popular mosaic familyand it’s as pretty as can be. It’s bound to be a hit with the pink lovers.
  • El Grande is the biggie of the range – an elegant large jar with a lid for those who like their candles, well, BIG! It has an estimated burn time of 85 hrs.
  •  And most excitingly -the Zulu community bag is here! I customised what is a monk’s bag and had them custom made in Cambodia. It comes in red or orange, with a donation to communities included! This will be free for you if your order is over $150
  • Here is the Candles for Community 2014 -2015 flyer that you can send to friends, family and colleagues. Your support in getting the word out there is so appreciated!

Give gifts that give back!

Each candle and card contains a donation component, which I donate at the end of the campaign to my chosen communities. The donation ranges from $2 – $6.50, and some items I have made the donation exclusive to a cause.

ACCIDENTAL AID WORKER – the story about Zulu’s Community over the last 10 years.

Accidental aid worker cover

Since 2005, I’ve been working voluntarily to develop creative opportunities and campaigns that engage and inspire others to take action to help people in need. Candles for Community has been one of the most loved and enduring campaigns that helps me to raise awareness and funds to support communities in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and organisations that support refugees and vulnerable communities in Australia.

I’m currently writing and self-publishing my memoir called Accidental aid worker, which is a journey through my adventures and experiences working with quirky individuals in far flung places who have devoted their lives to supporting people in their communities. Part of the profits from this years’ Candles for Community will help to fund the publication of this work, which also guide people with similar desires to craft their own campaigns and community ventures. You can read about this project by visiting

I’ll be writing more about Sri Lanka in the coming weeks – and also about Bruno’s Community . I’ll be in Sri Lanka late January – so hope to spend our donation dollars in communities while I’m there doing final research on my book with Bruno. You will certainly find out more about that – when my book is launched in late June (that’s the plan) with my very own Geraldine Cox by my side!

 Dedicated to Sunrise – the Sunrise Collection!


GroupshotsmallThere is a collection of gifts dedicated to SUNRISE and all funds raised from these items as stated will be donated.

It includes the GODDESS candle(dedicated to Geraldine), Sunrise kids cards and the orange Zulu Community bag – where the donation from those goods is dedicated to helping the kids. Have a look at the For Sunrise and Geraldine collection here!


The short answer is no – I don’t have a big audacious figure to shoot for. I just want to see how we go. I say WE – because it’s up to how well we do in selling, making and providing your gifts for Christmas, as to how much moolah I can give to my communities.

SO, if you love my candles, cards, gifts, flavors, creativity and efforts to build and support community, PLEASE order your gifts from Candles for Community, and tell all your friends, family and colleagues about us.

Everybody wins here.

Sue-21Thanks for your support,

and enjoy your candles and gifts.

Sue x


A great way to share experiences over dinner

I recently heard about a project operating in Sydney that helps link established Australians with people from across the world who are newly arrived or trying to get to know more about living this country. Because I’m a lover of sharing cultural experiences AND an enthusiastic consumer of food, I have been interested in having my own experience with this innovative project called the  Welcome Dinner Project.

The Welcome Dinner Project was created by Penny Elsley from Joining the dots  who  officially began her dinner projects in  March 2013. In under a year, the project has hosted close to 20 dinners throughout the greater Sydney region, involving nearly 500 participants.

When you participate in a Welcome Dinner event you will find yourself amongst people young and old, a mix of established Australians and newly arrived people from across the world – they could be migrants, refugees or people still seeking asylum here in Australia,  and international students studying in our universities.

The Welcome Dinners have proven to be a varied and diverse experience depending on the group and location but one thing is for sure, everyone discovers something new, gains connections in their community and has a good time!

The Welcome Dinner Project is supported by City of Sydney and City of Parramatta Local Community Grant schemes and Amnesty Australia, which has enabled us to get this initiative off the ground.


1. Participate in a dinner – If you’re interested in experiencing a welcome dinner with me, I will consider organising one for Zulu’s Community. Please contact me

2. You can choose to host a dinner or join in a dinner being organised in your local area. Go to the website to register

3.  Welcome Dinner Project Exhibition for Harmony Day –  21-22 March @ Martin Place
Joining the dots is hosting an exhibition of the Welcome Dinner Project as part of City of Sydney’s Living in Harmony Festival, coming up in March. The exhibition will be a showcase and celebration of the first year of the Welcome Dinner Project, providing a striking display of how the project has evolved and the positive impact it has had in the community through participant’s stories and other memorabilia. There will also be a grand scale Welcome Dinner each night. Our hope is that it will attract more people to take part in the Welcome Dinner Project in the future.
The exhibition has been designed by a very talented team of students from the Shopfront program at UTS. With just over two months to go, we need people to contribute to the construction, programming, fund raising and organisation of the exhibition, particularly if you have event management, artistic or other relevant skills, please get in touch with Penny. More information can be found on the website

Big cook-in events raise $5,053 for Sunrise, melted hearts and filled stomaches

Two amazing events were held on 8 and 10 September that warmed the hearts, minds and souls of all those in the room, and the stomachs of those in the wider community. Both events were fundraisers for Geraldine Cox from Sunrise Children’s Villages in Cambodia at Bondi community kitchen, Our Big Kitchen.

The most gorgeous Geraldine captured by SJ Allen

The most gorgeous Geraldine captured by SJ Allen

On Sunday:  55 of our guests were joined by 5 young people from Cambodia who were visiting on a study tour. Needless to say, they stole the show just by being here and being themselves – innocent, appreciative, sincere and humble young people. I started off by introducing the young people, including my personal connection with Waew who has been my sponsor child for 7 years.

I don’t THINK there was a dry eye in the room when 17 year old Waew sprung from her seat when I, ‘mum Sue’ invited the kids up to introduce themselves. Courageous young woman Waew is, I could not have been prouder of her. Her joyous spirit shone bright and she was able to tell the whole room what life is like at Sunrise. She was joined by her sisters and brothers who introduced themselves despite their shyness and emotion and performed a musical number. You can share this moment with us here.

The groups then went off into the kitchen to start chopping away! On the menu was: Tom Yum soup, fish balls with angel hair pasta, fried rice and Anzac cookies. After the chopping and prep was complete and while the cooking was being done in the kitchen, Rabbi Slavin spoke to us about community and connection, Geraldine told us more about her life, Cambodia and the work of Sunrise helping children.

 Sunday photographs by Laurachel Ventus

Tuesday’s event was a business gathering and had a very different vibe.  I opened up the session by talking about my personal journey in life, realities of business, my commitment to Geraldine and children as my family, efforts to redefine my purpose in life, living it in my business with community at the core.

On the menu was Tom Yum soup, meatballs with tomato sauce on pasta, fried rice and apple strudel! While it was all cooking, Geraldine and Rabbi also spoke about our connections to each other, the practicalities of running, supporting and financing community organisations. In order to continue on – it requires action and involvement from others.

Geraldine frankly described the heart wrenching decisions  and pressure she faces daily to run her three  centers, being mother to over 300 children, and having to raise over a million dollars each year to keep it all going. The stories she recounts include the brutality of sexual assault, trafficking and abuse of children who suffer at the hands of a corrupt and damaged culture in Cambodia.

From my own point of view, I’ve heard these stories many times, and it still shocks me to hear them. Being a face and a friend to many of these children at Sunrise – you would never know of the horrors that they have lived through already in their young lives because their joy and positivity really shine through. They know how lucky they are to be with Geraldine and the caring Cambodian staff at Sunrise and many do make the best of  the opportunities they have, to learn English, go to school and be part of a truly unique family.

Strong connections were made amongst all of our guests from Sunday and Tuesday and conversations are already happening amongst us, about how to continue to support Geraldine with her great work in growing up these young, inspirational people.

And for OBK – I know that the experience of being hands on and feeding our vulnerable communities struck a chord with everyone and many amongst us will return to the kitchen to lend a helping hand.

Tuesday photographs by SJ Allen


 With love everyone,

Sue xxxxxxxxxx


  • $5053 raised over the two events and ( so far) 3 sponsors!
  • 770 MEALS PREPARED: 430 Sunday and 340 on Tuesday. The food was distributed to Chapel by the sea, Jewish Crisis Centre and to families at the Children’s Hospital

THANK YOU: to all of those who participated with willing hands, open hearts – and wallets!

  • Sarah-Jane from SJ Allen Photography donated her time to photograph on Tuesday as well as donating the prize for the guessing competition. The photographic session valued at $395  was won by Worren from Qi Wealth. Congratulations!
  • Laurachel Ventus donated  her time and expertise to photograph on Sunday.
  • Amanda Blake and Leslee Stroud assisted with book sales  and guessing competition – well done ladies
  • Volunteers and staff at OBK – amazing job and thank you all, particularly Rabbi and Laya Slavin and Greg Fisher.


Zulu will be running more cook-in events at OBK as well as further opportunities to support Sunrise. The best way to stay in touch is via facebook pages: