During the COVID crisis our Chief Operations Officer, Sabina, received a very unusual call. A           Russian gentleman named Alexi was looking for help with food, and he had been referred to COA by one of our partner organisations, Foodbank NSW.

Alexi was stranded in Sydney due to COVID-19. His visa and money were running out and he was about to lose his accommodation. He was feeling alone and missing home. Although Alexi is not Jewish, we could not leave him in this situation.

So we spoke with long time partner Jewish House, who very kindly agreed to provide him accommodation for 2 months.

In gratitude, Alexi agreed to come in to COA to help pack the fresh food parcels, made up of donations from Harris Farm Markets and other partners.

But Alexi did much more than simply pack parcels. He helped out with whatever was needed. He filled in for staff looking after the project when they were away from the office, coordinating all the packing and volunteers. He loaded and unloaded fresh produce from our bus, which translates to literally tons of fresh produce in his 2 months with us.

Alexi had very limited English, but even so he managed to establish relationships with COA staff and volunteers and was well liked by everyone. He came to the Centre reliably 4 days each week for two months.

We so appreciated his work that we gave him a proper farewell, with cards and gifts. In his farewell speech Alexi thanked everyone at COA for showing him kindness and for giving him purpose whilst    others languished in isolation, by allowing him to be part of an organisation that helps others. He also thanked COA for supporting him emotionally, cheering him up ,and not letting him go hungry.

Alexi said that COA made such a big impact on his life that the memory of his time here will stay with him for the rest of his life. We will miss Alexi very much. He was a terrific volunteer and a true mensch. Perhaps our favourite picture of Alexi is the one below, sent to us just before he took off for home, wearing his mask emblazoned with the letters COA.