Arazou, Hamilton

"I'm the kind of person who likes to go to new things in my community. So when I heard about the Hamilton Community Food Centre, I went the first day it opened. I wanted to see what it was like and as soon as I entered, I knew it was a place for me.

People were making steamed tea but they didn’t know how to do it properly. I’m Kurdish from Northern Iraq and we have a way of doing it. I jumped in to help and didn’t leave the rest of the day. People loved the tea. They kept coming back for more.

I come from a country where many times we had no food. I have seven siblings. We struggled and were poor, always living through war. But our mother told us that we need to help other people. She taught us that when you do good things, good things come back to you. You never know how but they do.

I was in a car accident last spring and I still have pain in my neck and shoulders and nonstop migraine headaches. It has been very stressful but coming to the Community Food Centre to volunteer changed my life. Talking to others, helping them makes me happy. I don’t want to stay home and think about my pain.

At first I joined the kitchen and helped the community chef, washing, cleaning, chopping, making everything ready for him. Then I did the community action training program and became a peer advocate. I try to help people, especially other newcomers, access resources. I don’t want them to have to learn the hard way like I did when I came to Canada 18 years ago.

I recently went back into the kitchen when the community chef had to be away. I cooked a meal for 150 people—basmati rice, chicken shawarma, baked vegetable tapsi and lentil soup. Every single person came and said the food was amazing. I forgot about my tiredness I was so happy they liked it and there was enough.

I always say this place is my second home. People aren’t my friends. They’re family. What I do, I do from my heart.”