For the first time ever, the Waterloo Market’s doors stayed open on the 30th and 31st of December to make sure there was at least one place where vulnerable Sydneysiders could access food over the holiday period. But this isn’t the first time Eliza and the team have gone above and beyond for the community, and it won’t be the last. We talked to Eliza about her role at the Waterloo Market.
Why did you and the team decide to stay open over New Year’s Eve?
We stayed open because many services are shut over the Christmas holiday period. Although some of our customers may be lucky enough to share that time with their families, many cannot and it can be an incredibly lonely time. We wanted to open, feed and connect with people… and share some joy! A typical market day usually has between 280-300 customers, but across the two days of operation we served 1,040 customers! It was a busy but rewarding couple of days.
What does a day at the market look like for you?
Run by the power of dedicated volunteers, we serve 1,400 customers each week. We start the day with a delivery of delicious, rescued food from our drivers, set up the Market ready to welcome customers and then assist them with their shopping. Currently due to COVID, we have adjusted our service to distribute pre-packed hampers outside the market to keep our customers safe. The market is a truly special place; food is what brings people initially, but it is the friendship and kindness that has them returning.
As one of our Market Managers, you get the chance to talk to a lot of people. Are there any special stories that stand out?
Yes! Making friendships with people from all walks of life is my favourite part of the job. Recently, I have been overcome with the kindness of our volunteers. A new customer visited us and shared her story: After 30 years of living with domestic abuse, she bravely moved to the city to restart, but unfortunately, she came with no support and no belongings. Her story moved all of us and within a week our incredible volunteers had either donated preloved or purchased new items which have now completely furnished her home! I am so lucky to work alongside some of the kindest people.
What has been your favourite moment at the market?
Each day is the best day, I have had so many amazing moments in the past two and half years I can’t count them all. But a memorable one was meeting a person experiencing homelessness in the city and bonding with him over classical music. I told him about the market and promised if he came to visit us, I would bring my instrument and play his favourite song. He luckily followed through. So not only did we share music, but he is also now a regular customer with regular access to healthy food.