The Ham Family
Above all the commercial hype, Christmas is primarily a time that we spend with our loved ones. But some Australians are choosing to connect with strangers at Christmas time through selfless acts of volunteering.
Meet the “Ham Family”, affectionately named for 17-years of volunteer service carving Christmas hams for The Salvation Army Sydney Streetlevel Christmas lunch.
There’s Brian, the dad, who carves the bones and fat away; Lynda, the mum, who slices the de-boned chunks, with Hayley (daughter), Dave (son-in-law) and – the newest “Ham Family” addition – Hayley and David’s 18-month old daughter, Adabelle.
“We don’t just cut the hams!” laughs Lynda, referring to the 250kg of ham and pork products that are generously donated each year by NSW Farmers and Australian Pork Limited. “We’ve cut up pork and turkey, cooked crackling, and prepared puddings and salads – we do whatever needs to be done. As a family we feel it is really important to help,”
It was this motivation that led retired school teachers, Lynda and Brian, and their daughter Hayley (then 15 years old), to get in touch with The Salvation Army in 1997. They were encouraged to help with preparations for the annual Christmas luncheon, an event that has grown from small beginnings in the late ’90s to now hosting 1200 lonely and disadvantaged people every Christmas Day.
It’s one of many Christmas events that The Salvation Army runs across the country to bring hope and connection to those in need.
For Hayley, now 32, the experience of volunteering has been life-changing.
“I do remember our very first year,” she says, referring to the luncheon that was then held at The Salvation Army’s Oasis Youth Support Network for homeless and disadvantaged young people. “It was a very different world to the Northern Suburbs of Sydney [where the family lived], and quite confronting in a few ways.”
She hasn’t missed a year since – one year flying back from a Queensland holiday early to attend, and last year she and husband Dave took their new baby daughter, Adabelle with them. In 2013 Lynda and Brian, who are in their 60s, decided to volunteer closer to home and now spend Christmas Eve preparing for The Salvation Army’s celebrations at The Salvation Army’s church in Manly.
“I think all of us look forward to it every year,” says Hayley. “It’s enjoyable and it’s just part of that couple of days of celebration where you can sit and take some time out and be grateful for everything that you have … and try and do something for other people.”
The Salvation Army’s Robyn Evans, who currently runs the Sydney Streetlevel Christmas luncheon, says being able to count on volunteers like the “Ham Family is essential to its success.
“Our volunteers are priceless. We couldn’t serve the community without them, especially at Christmas. Their spirit of generosity and service is never to be undervalued,” she says.
“The ongoing service of people like Lynda and Brian has been truly appreciated and had a generational impact as we now see their children and grandchildren coming along to help us. What a great legacy to gift the community at Christmas.”
The Salvation Army’s Streetlevel Mission is located in Sydney and Brisbane. The inner city sites offer a range of services to the community including emergency assistance, Centrelink support, a food market, cooking classes, community breakfasts and church services. Salvation Army Christmas lunches are held at these locations and across Australia.
Photo caption: Hayley (left), who has been volunteering for the Salvos at Christmas since she was 15, continues the family tradition by now including her 18-month daughter, Adadelle.
Story by Lauren Martin. Photo by Adam Hollingworth.