I have just come back from visiting my daughter and her husband and daughter in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. To get there it is taking two trains to Sydney and then out to the airport then a four hour flight from one side of Australia to the other, from Sydney to Perth, over 2000 kms. Then after an hours wait taking an hours flight to Kalgoorlie, 335 kms inland from Perth. Kalgoorlie is a mining town and Kalgoorlie - Boulder is the city made by combining two small towns both built on a gold discovery. There is still a deep open cut working gold mine there.
Shirley and Craig are in charge of the Salvation Army there. There is a large open plan building somewhat past its prime consisting of a church and hall and shower and laundry facilities. it is very busy due to being the host for Second Bite, the distribution of food that has reached its use by date from Coles, one of our major supermarkets. So each morning they collect bread, sometimes meat and miscellaneous groceries, set them up in their church hall and members of the public come and take what they need. There are some restrictions on how much they take but some stay a while as there is also tea and coffee making facilities, hot soup and extra pies and mini pizzas donated by a local bakery.
The actual congregation is small but volunteers help to fill out the workforce. A handful of mostly older people stop by each day for morning tea and form a loose senior group. In a city that is both very rich and very poor available social centres such as this are very important. Isolation is a real problem in the small western towns and cities. A lot of people are struggling with rising food prices and higher rents so food distribution is important. Unfortunately this service takes three or four hours of Shirley and Craigs time every week day. I was able to help in a limited way, I am very good at packing goods into a refrigerator now.
We did get some time together but not as much as planned. There was a Kids Festival for the last weekend of the school holidays which included a pop up Ice Skating rink the first weekend and the Salvation Army was asked to staff the Lost Children's tent. I have all the qualifications and paperwork so I was able to help with that too, Shirley and I on Saturday morning and Naomi and I on Sunday morning. The Council gave a "donation" to the Youth Shed the Salvation Army run for our services. During the week I helped out with the food etc but did manage some free time. The landscaping of Kalgoorlie, red dust country, reminded me very much of Broken Hill but it is far more prosperous. Thanks to the rising price of gold I guess there are far better facilities, shopping centres etc.
It is always strange for a few days when I come back home to an empty house after being with family. I listen to the quiet sounds of night and long for the days when there were family sit-down meals and laughter around the table. I miss Craig's cooking and Shirley and Naomi's voices calling to one another room to room. I miss their cat Ash snuggling on my knee. I wouldn't want to live permanently with family but it is so good to be with them for a time, however brief that time is. I was lucky to be able to do that.