Recently, I participated in my second session of loaves and fishes. This is a subset of programs run by the exodus foundation that our school partners us with. The goal of the activity is to help economically disadvantaged residents of Sydney by preparing breakfasts for them.
We were required to arrive at their headquarters, 180 Liverpool Rd, at 7:45 am and worked until 10:10 am. Notably, we didn’t have any direct contact with customers as safety measures had to be ensured, since we were minors, that prevented exposing us to any unnecessary danger. This caution was mainly in response to the general demographic of the people who arrive for breakfast, many of which struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues.
Across both sessions, it became increasingly clear the advantages of working in groups. As I was working with a group, myself and two friends, the duties that my group was tasked with were distributed evenly amidst the three of us and, as such, we were able to dramatically increase our efficiency and rate of production. This was paramount. Since we were making a hot breakfast we couldn’t use preprepared meals for breakfast. Therefore, were we to do this individually we would run the serious risk of not being able to produce a large enough quantity to meet the demands of the morning consumers. However, working in a group ensured we had ample time to not only cook but prepare the serving stations and the dining hall.
The only challenge encountered as a result of this was the decreased space in the small kitchen. Especially considering there was a central bench that divided the kitchen into smaller lanes rather than a large open space, our movement was greatly restricted. We did, however, find an easy solution to this problem. We organized ourselves into a conveyor belt-like system whereby only one person would move to get new produce while the other two would prepare food, for example peel potatoes, with the person on the other end placing the produce into a tray that was taken by the supervising chef. This quickly resolved the spacial issues we had because with only one person moving, as opposed to all three of us, the space per person tripled.
I thoroughly enjoyed this experience as the area is close to my school. Recognizing the local socioeconomic issues that afflicted inner western Sydney and then choosing to contribute in a positive manner was particularly rewarding as it contributed to my feeling of community within the area. I am excited to engage in another loaves and fishes session later this year and possibly outside of school should time permit.
In the previous week, I participated once again as a member of the Moulton Loaves and Fishes team that attended a morning session to help prepare meals for the day. Adopting the same strategies as last time we were able to minimize problems and maximize efficiency. Towards the latter half of the session I was moved from the kitchen to the serving station area. The main responsibilities here were to toast and restock the bread so there was a continual supply of food. Additionally, should people say hello it was expected I exchange pleasantries briefly before continuing to work. This was fine, especially since the kitchen staff that day were overstaffed, taking short breaks to engage with people didn’t pose any problems. Had this not been the case my removal from the kitchen meant the conveyor belt process we had arranged may have failed to work as effectively. Furthermore, whilst it never generated any large concern, the cramped space at the serving station required an awareness for other people with whom I was working. This is an example of the drawbacks that can arise when working collaboratively. That is to say that the size of a group must be appropriate relative to the scale of the task or operation undertaken.
In addition to the practicalities of the session, those mainly associated with the structure and execution of group work, the session also added in developing my understanding of the ethical ramifications of engaging in such a program. Studying higher-level philosophy at school meant it was easy for me to apply a philosophical framework with which to analyze what I did. Interestingly, it made me reflect on a particular school of thought called utilitarianism. This, generally speaking, is a normative theory that asserts a moral act is one that maximizes utility - sometimes understood as pleasure. Normally, if asked my thoughts on the theory I would criticize for a number of reasons I’m currently going to neglect to mention, mainly as they aren’t necessary to understand the following idea. However, seeing the impact, maximizing others utility, I was able to make on others, even if at the detriment of my own pleasure as I was having to get up earlier and miss work in class that I will have to do at home, it now doesn’t make sense to say doing anything else, other than maximizing the general utility, would be acceptable. This is not to say I completely accept utilitarianism after this, but it provided me with a greater appreciation for communitarian ideas and accepting responsibilities that extend beyond a purely individualistic level. Subsequently, I believe I am more likely to engage in programs such as these in the future and assert others ought to as well. In fact, neglecting responsibilities and refusing to help others to any capacity, whether on a global or local scale, now seems a selfish and immoral position.
Overall, it was an enjoyable session the was a subtle reminder of the strengths and weaknesses associated with collaborative work and the ethical ramifications of participating in such initiatives.
Building upon the ideas of responsibility and commitment discussed in the last reflection, I was able to participate in another, my 5th, session for the semester. Notably, this wasn’t as a member of Moulton House. Instead, the opportunity presented itself when in class and members of another house - Fletcher House - were discussing how they were short one member for this Friday’s session. With some boys on exams and others with compulsory sport training, they were scared they would be unable to field the minimum number of students. However, upon hearing this I decided to offer my services. I spoke with the house captain Rhett Shlapoff who was organizing participants and presented the idea. He later confirmed with his housemaster that this was acceptable. Following this, I attended the session. The session itself posed no notable challenges or concepts worth reflecting on. However, this was a nice session to conclude the year on as it reminded me of the community ideals and group work that had been explored amidst the previous sessions and presented me with the opportunity to step up and demonstrate my commitment to the ideas discussed in previous reflections.