Meals from the Heart - Ronald McDonald House - Westmead Children's Hospital - Thursday July 23rd, 2023

We had a chance to go and help cook a meal for the families staying at Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Westmead, next to the Children's Hospital.
I knew when I first read about this opportunity in Springword it was one I wanted to be involved with. More so because I wanted to find out about Ronald McDonald House. It is a separate business, not linked to McDonalds, even though they are major sponsors with large fund raising promotions like McHappy Day.
We were a small, keen group that gathered mid afternoon Thursday July 23rd, 2023 and were welcomed and inducted into the house with a brief history, before going to the kitchen. I learnt you can be a volunteer and stay overnight.
Linda and I got the royal tour, since we hadn't seen the place before/ recently. Nice touch in the lift seeing the dinner menu displayed along with our name and logo for all to see. These Meals From The Heart occur 3 times a week in the communal kitchen.
I noticed the large spaces and modern feel inside whilst walking around the brightly painted corridors. Many open areas with balconies looking into trees to help provide a peaceful place to sit. There was a mini hairdressing salon located at the end of one wing that opened up to allow views over green spaces. Genius idea to allow people to feel pampered and have a bit of “me time” with a volunteer professional hairdresser.  It's all about making people feel as much at home as possible whilst they attend to sick or injured loved ones in the next door hospital.
There is no time limit to how long families can stay in RMH and some had been there for over 6 months, at no cost to them. They stay as long as they need to be supported for their children requiring treatment. It's not just treatment of cancer, or a disease, but could be injury or trauma related. In other words, they open their arms for any families and there is always a waiting list. Priorities are for those living further away and those close by requiring intensive treatment.
The kitchen was modern and clearly built for industrial meal preparation. Safety and hygiene were paramount so hairnet (even me) and mask on at all times. I knew we were in for a big night when saw up to 10 dishes listed on the whiteboard menu that we were cooking.
For a couple of hours we worked hard, diligently slicing and dicing to prepare 8 savoury dishes and a couple of desserts. Not knowing a lot about industrial cooking, this was a new experience for me, cooking at scale the volume of food in large pots on the burners.
I was impressed with the inhouse chef – his patience when all around him were asking for his help. Cool and calm and with gentle guidance he was like a busy bee tending to all of us to ensure the production line kept moving to meet the serving deadline.
No rest once all food was prepared as we also served the families.
Then cleaning up, scrubbing surfaces, drying and restacking all pots and pans.
This organisation is about providing for families in need and relies on volunteers to assist the friendly staff who are tireless in their efforts to make residents feel as happy and comfortable as they can. One way to do that is to include the public to make and serve good freshly prepared food.
That’s where we came in and for a small window of time delivered nutritious food to families who are enduring pain and suffering, with children in the hospital next door. Rotary and RMH share similar values i.e. service over self, standing for human rights and dignity to name a few. It felt good to help out and was proud to be part of the Springwood Rotary group "doing our bit". I thought the time flew by.
A highlight for me was getting a little smile when serving - nice to connect.
Thanks to Adam for organising a great afternoon and evening of teamwork where we all chipped in and delivered for the cause. A privilege to help and support families and an experience I won't forget.
Al Kellaway