The Amazon Australia senior public policy manager spearheaded a grass roots campaign to deliver top quality fresh food and vegetables to struggling families in Sydney when the city was in lockdown during the pandemic.
“I set it up myself and it was called Viral Kindness - Sydney Food Care,” explains Alasdair, whose volunteer group delivered an extraordinary 35,000 hampers of food and $100,000 worth of PPE to people in need in Redfern and other inner-city precincts over the course of two years.
“I had to organise transport and packing and distribution facilities. It started off just three of us using our own cars and then within a fortnight built a close-knit network of 50 volunteers, and secured donated vans and facilities.”
Alasdair says his food program was one of the most rewarding things he’s ever done.
It all came about when he returned home to Australia in 2020 after spending 20 years in Hong Kong, and found a city in the grip of the pandemic, and decided he had to do something to help the most vulnerable, including First Nations communities and those struggling in public housing.
“I had come from a similar background and felt a close connection to these communities, but more than that, I felt it was a time when love needed to conquer fear” he says.
“It is easy to forget what a fearful time it was, when the pandemic first hit. I felt strongly that there was a lot of care in the community, but that the care did not have an easy outlet – people were trapped in their homes and wanted to help but didn’t know how to.
“I felt there was a really great opportunity to marshal all that goodwill into something that would directly support our own community members. The important thing was for people to feel connected to one another and supported by one another.”
To get his “Viral Kindness” campaign kicked off, Alasdair approached a local retailer, Harris Farm Markets, which very generously agreed to donate “market fresh, premium quality fruit and vegetables” for an entire year for his program.
He also teamed up with 25 grass roots community organisations such as the Aboriginal Medical Service, the Wayside Chapel, women’s refuges, asylum-seeker support groups, and Counterpoint (a local community centre), distribute the food hampers to individuals, and initially used shuttered local community centres to pack the hampers. During the second year of the pandemic in 2021 Counterpoint provided its drop in centre when community centres were no longer available, and Lend Lease and the City of Sydney provided funds to buy the fresh fruit and vegetables.
“I raised the money myself and set up the supply arrangements,” explains the big-hearted telecommunications expert, who earlier this year had his work recognised when he won Volunteer of the Year for the South Sydney area.
“Our volunteers all felt they got much more out of the program that what they put into it, and over the two year period of the program, our volunteers only left the program in order to return to full-time work. I felt exactly the same way. It was a very special time of my life. It just felt the right thing to do at the right time.”