As featured in The Country Web Number 58 Autumn 2013 edition
Ashley Murphy, a 21 year-old farm hand from Narrandera, had an idea. Greatly involved with his local community he had visions of restoring their town’s community kitchen to create a healthy and positive environment for the local youth.
‘I’ve been involved with the church youth group since I was a kid. I’m now a youth leader and through this work I’ve seen areas of need in the community, especially amongst young people. I really wanted to build on some of our current youth programs and that’s when I thought about the kitchen idea.’
Some of the social issues facing Narrandera are financial hardship and the instance of social breakdown amongst families, often brought about by the impact of long droughts and flood. Current programs run by the church focus on instilling positive family values, developing life skills and healthy social interaction amongst children.
‘The aim of the community kitchen is to improve some of the poor nutrition and irregular meal patterns that some of the kids in the community have. Simple things like sharing a family meal, preparing meals together, and basic cooking skills are important skills for everyone to have.’
Narrandera’s old community kitchen, housed in the town’s old cinema as part of the local community church, was out-dated and not compliant with health and safety standards. Demonstrating initiative beyond his years, Ashley applied for a Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation (RASF) Community Futures Grant, and was successful. He was awarded $25 000 to kick-start his project, which was completed in December 2012. After being awarded the grant Ashley was dealt another surprise. Bunnings, supplier of the large demonstration kitchens in the Woolworths fresh food dome at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, generously offered to donate the kitchen to a rural community, and there was clearly no better home for it than the Narrandera Community Kitchen project.
‘I was overwhelmed with Bunnings’ generous offer and the quality and size of the kitchen.’ The donated kitchen included all of the cabinets, cook tops, a sink, oven and microwave, and a smaller outdoor kitchen. Shortly after the show the kitchens were packed and freighted to Narrandera, where they have now been installed. ‘The kitchen is really modern. It’s such an improvement on what we had before; it just looks great.’
With the RASF’s $25 000 grant Ashley and his team were able to replace the rusty roof on the hall that houses the kitchen, as well as reline the walls and install lighting and a new floor. The kitchen was officially opened on 1 February 2013 by Michael Milner, Chair of the RAS Foundation.
Despite the project idea coming from Ashley, the humble man is quick to point out it has been a team effort. He says the project has brought many people from across the community together, from the youth group, local flooring company, electrician and the entire church community.’So many people have lent a hand and hammered a few nails, painted a wall, wired in new lighting and maneuvered the new kitchen cupboards and appliances into place. Everyone has donated their time.’
Jocellin Jansson, Executive director of the RASF, visited Ashley to see how the kitchen was coming to life. She says, ‘The project is an inspiration to anyone living in a rural community. The kitchen and refurbished hall are cause for great celebration and are testament to one young man’s quiet leadership, an enthusiastic committee and a community with a big heart.’
Ashley has big plans for the kitchen, including a weekly ‘soup night’ to provide a healthy meal for families, as well as cooking classes for young people to learn basic skills. He says the broader community will also benefit fom the new facility with groups being able to use it for events such as school functions, dance classes and art festivals. ‘In a small rural community such as ours, to have programs and activities that bring families together is great. I hope the kitchen will become a place for young people to come and either spend time with their families, or learn some new skills that will help them in the future.’
Ashley admits the project has also taught him some new skills and increased his self-confidence. ‘It’s a really good feeling to do something for your community that you know will benefit and help so many people. I encourage other young rural people to think about what they could do for their community and just have a go. It’s amazing what can be achieved and the difference you can make.’
If you have an idea to revitalise your community why not apply for a RASF Community Futures Grant. For details visit: http://www.rasf.org.au/