Sau Saunalu, pictured with Father Daniel Jayaraj, is now a volunteer at the Gladstone Anglican Church Soup Kitchen, having previously used the service himself.
Sau Saunalu, pictured with Father Daniel Jayaraj, is now a volunteer at the Gladstone Anglican Church Soup Kitchen, having previously used the service himself. Matt Taylor GLA271117SOUP

Soup-er job at soup kitchen

BREAKING down stereotypes is never an easy feat but Gladstone Anglican Church's soup kitchen is helping to do just that.

With Christmas only weeks away, Father Daniel Jayaraj is working hard to ensure the church's program not only helps those struggling financially but those struggling with a range of social issues.

Father Daniel said the soup kitchen, which started in 2014, catered for those looking for something to eat, those searching for a sense of community, or time to settle into new surroundings.

"People coming here don't belong to any family, they don't have many friends, so they can come here, sit around the table and meet people,” he said.

"When you are looking at demographics of who comes to Gladstone, it takes 25-40 days for those people to get their Centrelink benefits.

"When they come here it will take months for them to settle.

"So those sorts of people are coming too and trying to get help from us.”

The kitchen, run by volunteers on Monday and Wednesday nights, serves hot, healthy meals to those in need.

Groceries are donated by community members, volunteers and church people, with attendees each night given the opportunity to take home a food pack.

Father Daniel said the program benefited people from many different backgrounds and walks of life.

"One fellow we see helping us, he was in the soup kitchen and stayed in (the) men's shelter but now he's a volunteer here and he just stands on his own,” he said.

"So people are really making their own journey.

"We are not just feeding them, we are helping them face the future.”

That man is Sau Saunalu, who, despite facing a 20-year drug and alcohol addiction, has turned his life around and is devoted to assisting those in a similar situation.

Mr Saunalu said the sense of community provided by the soup kitchen was what changed his life.

He helps with the soup kitchen on Monday and Wednesday nights.

"In 2015 I came here and this man changed my life. The congregation changed my life because I was surrounded by good people,” Mr Saunalu said.

"Men that come, we have a talk and they ask me how did I do it, how I stayed clean and stayed away from everything.

"The first thing I said to them was about their friends - whatever friends you hang out with, using or drinking or whatever, cut it off.

"Come to the soup kitchen and talk to us because there's a lot of good people around.”