We just wanted to take a moment to share and celebrate the on-going mission at the Olive Way during these challenging times with the whole congregation. Whilst the doors to the Olive Way may be closed, there are still things happening.

The Olive Way has been working with the Salvation Army to help provide hot take-away meals during the week. In addition Peter Blair has continued to meet people at the Salvos and keep in touch. He has also regularly contacted participants by phone to check on how they are travelling

The Pastoral Care committee has also sought to put people in touch with each other – helping facilitate social support networks. Peter Blair has also been regularly keeping in touch with our valued volunteers.

One project which we have implemented has involved collecting and distributing mobile phones. This came from a desire to maintain social connection for participants – a value that is at the heart of the Olive Way. This has been helped by a grant from the Inner North Community Foundation.  Peter Blair has given out a number of mobiles which have SIM cards included.

A few stories help illustrate some outcomes from this project:

One was a single mother of four children living in Brunswick. A significant portion of her Centrelink income goes on her rent leaving a small amount to cover groceries, medicine, utilities and other needs. She had spoken to her landlord about the government moratorium on evictions, but the landlord said that he would not be honouring it and there would be no change to her rental situation. She had a very old phone and was paying premium prepaid prices to connect. Consequently she rarely had any credit on her phone and would instead use other people’s phones to make appointments or contact whomever she needed. She said she was constantly embarrassed to have to ask and to make private calls when there were people listening to her conversations. We were able to offer her a year’s worth of unlimited text and phone time, with a small amount of data (we keep our wifi on and available at the church door as ’spill-over’ wifi, which she also uses). She was also able to have a more modern phone.

A second story was an elderly woman who would come to Olive Way on occasions. Since the shut downs and the restrictions she was feeling increasingly isolated. She would normally keep herself busy during the week by attending places such as the Neighbourhood House, the Multicultural Women’s Sewing Group at Brunswick Baptist, Olive Way, and Brunswick Salvos. Due to the restrictions none of these options were available to her. I would meet her at the lunch distribution at Salvos and she would tell me what was happening for her. She told me she really missed the sewing group in particular, and that it was her lifeline. She had an ancient phone that would constantly drain of charge, meaning it would not last more than a few minutes without being plugged in. We were eventually able to provide her with a newer phone that kept it’s charge and was also able to have Zoom installed on it.  The next week I saw her again and her face was completely different. She was smiling and very excited to have been able to connect to the sewing group over Zoom.

A final anecdote is of an elderly homeless man who attends the Olive Way regularly. He had no income, no Centrelink, and a series of chronic health conditions. He was ineligible for any phone service as he had no ID or any way of verifying his identity to the phone companies. Eventually he was provided with a basic phone through another Uniting Church Pastor (signed up in her name), but he was concerned about contracting the virus due to his many health complications. He asked us if we had a phone that could take the COVIDsafe app. We were eventually able to provide him with one which could install the App. He was relieved, and whilst the effectiveness of the app is debatable, it meant that he felt safer to go about his daily business with less fear.

Another Olive Way linked activity that has continued to keep in touch and support its participants has been the Olive Arts Collective. The team has continued to phone , text and email the artists who are part of the program. This has provided encouragement to the artists and has been backed up, in some instances, with the provision of art materials.

Recently one of the artists, Graeme Laming, contacted Ann Soo and sent her some of his work. Graeme has been a regular at The Olive Arts Collective. He has been painting for a long time and has missed being at the Olive Arts. He wanted to share some of his work – and you can see some photos of his works below.  They will also be featured in the Tower Room Window installation soon.

Whilst the Olive Arts Collective has been keeping in touch with a number of the artists it is not resting and has now started offering Zoom meetings for artists to gather and celebrate the work they are creating in isolation.

For more Olive Way news – visit the Olive Way page.