In a bright and airy former classroom on Holt, people are busy putting together gift packages.
No, they are not getting ahead of the Christmas deliveries. Instead, they are Roundabout Canberra volunteers packing items for Canberra families that most of us take for granted.
Bibs, diapers, wipes, stuffed toys, and size 0000 clothing are things new parents will likely buy or receive in bulk when they’re expecting. But for struggling Canberra families, these items can be too expensive, forcing them to go without even the essentials.
It is this harsh reality that Roundabout Canberra CEO and founder Hannah Andrevski (pictured) hopes to avoid for as many families as possible. Founded in 2018 as a way for families to donate second-hand items for babies, parents and children, Roundabout Canberra acts as a sorting center (a roundabout if you will) funneling quality used and new donated items to over 90 services in the Canberra region. and charities that get goods where they need to go.
In 2018 Roundabout Canberra helped 350 children; in 2021 they helped 2039.
Hannah points out that Roundabout Canberra does not deal directly with the Canberrans who receive these products, leaving it up to the services. Large carts are full of orders the services have placed for their clients, ready to be picked up by organizations such as the ACT Domestic Violence Crisis Service, Toora Women Inc and Vinnies.
“Sometimes it’s for a box of clothes, sometimes it’s all a family will need for a newborn,” says Hannah. “In addition to donated items, we always try to put some new items in there as well. We want it to be a really nice experience for people to open their box and feel that someone has put love and care into it. We want it to feel like a gift.”
“We have no contact with the families themselves and for us it is about protecting their dignity; it can be embarrassing for people to ask for help and if they’re already working with a service, we think it’s important that they can continue that relationship. .”
At the Roundabout headquarters, part of the Holt Community Center, industrial shelving is used to house literal tons of quality-controlled donated products, from children’s book shelves to age-sorted laundry tubs to new pallets of diapers. courtesy of corporate sponsors.
The former school canteen is used to check the safety of strollers and cribs, while another room houses rows of car seats and a colorful children’s play area is ready for any volunteers who want to bring their babies. Meanwhile, a team of volunteers moves. tables, classification, control and packaging. There is a joyous buzz in the air as they chat quietly.
With one of the most flexible volunteer programs in Canberra and with no minimum time commitment or set list, Hannah says Roundabout prides itself on creating realistic volunteer opportunities.
“We now have about 250 volunteers on our books, some who come every week, others who come during school holidays or just when they have some free time. We don’t ask for a regular commitment, which I think some people really appreciate.”
Even during closures, Roundabout volunteers continued to make contactless deliveries and volunteer remotely to ensure the organization could continue to serve the community.
I am introduced to Julie, a passionate seamstress who supports Roundabout’s talented team of creators who create the many cloth bags the organization uses instead of plastic, as part of a conscious strategy to reduce, reuse and recycle. Old bedding is even recycled into bags for baby wombats and wallabies through animal rescue organizations.
Made from colorful reused and donated fabrics, the sewing volunteers’ simple bags are finished with a handle and snaps and are used as rucksacks in school bags for elementary school children, to wrap toiletries for young teens, or to pack toys.
On a shelf, modest black backpacks are ready and waiting to be delivered to Canberra hospital maternity wards for new mums in critical need.
“They contain the really essential items that people might need for a newborn and the hospitals have received very positive feedback… it just means they have something to give them until [the new parents] can put in a proper order with a service.”
Hannah says that for many people living in difficult circumstances, it can be hard to know how many things they might need for new babies.
“Money is a very important factor, but there is a lot of information available and it takes time to consume it; we’re making it easy for services to make sure their customers are supported.”
In addition to verifying that all donated items meet safety standards, Roundabout also includes Red Nose Safe Sleep brochures in new baby packs and a coupon to have a car seat fitted by a professional.
“We are trying to remove the financial but also mental burden. We’re hearing a lot of cost of living stories right now and a lot of services are telling us if we can give [clients] these things for free, they can spend the money they have on rent or gas.”
While Roundabout is always accepting donations, as Hannah says, they only look for quality donated items that you “would give to your best friend”, with an up-to-date list of the most needed donations on Roundabout Canberra’s Facebook page.
Right now, Hannah says winter clothing, especially jackets, for children in sizes 6 to 16 is desperately needed, as are double strollers and car seats.