HUMANITY ON THE STREETS
Words by Moira M Tauiliili
It is not uncommon to walk through the streets of Melbourne and be captivated by the Art, the musicians in the street, the Cafe's that sell the coffee we're famous for, the Infrastructure and the crowd of tourists in their hundreds enamoured by the great place we call home.
However, despite the beauty of Melbourne, it is also not uncommon to walk past a substantial number of people camped out on the sidewalks, holding signs up and asking for food. The streets are where they sleep, where they're walked past by hundreds of people on a daily basis, where they're confronted day and night by freezing cold temperatures to boiling hot - the streets are what they call home.
One might look at this situation and not even think twice, others may feel sorry for them, few will give them the occasional gold/silver coin from the bottom of their wallet, some might even judge their way of life - but for Roseanne Rofaeel this isn't what the essence of humanity is...
Roseanne is a young student on a big mission. She is humbly working toward breaking down social barriers in a fearless way, with the vision to break down the social constraints so that it is no longer about 'us and them' it's just us. Humanity, unconcealed, bare, blemished but all in all, unified.
In the summer of 2016, Roseanne Rofaeel set up an event called 'Christmas on the Streets,' to put her passions into practice. This project grew out of her participation in charity work but more so from her involvement with a group called 'Our Lost Sheep Movement' - that go out to the city fortnightly and give to anyone they see on the streets. Roseanne wanted to take her association with OLSM and expand the vision to a wider scope, inviting more people out to experience what she loves most. Her event was met with an outpour of support with hundreds of people sharing the event on Facebook, donating food, donating clothes or even simply offering their time. The afternoon itself consisted of about 100 people walking around the city handing out the various Christmas gifts, food, sanitary items and other necessities to the homeless around Melbourne but more importantly, the group was able to provide fellowship and friendship - It all contributed to a successful day and helped make Roseanne's mission a reality..
So, why would a young student be interested in such a task? Holding tight to her belief that humanity is united Roseanne explains,
"Once you know that we're all one - just one circumstance away from being in someone else's shoes- there's no way you can walk past someone who's fallen and not want to help."
Over the years Roseanne's involvement in events that have focused on helping the homeless people in Melbourne has increased, and after years of volunteering in these different projects, she noticed that there is so much more to be experienced from all this. That there are genuine friendships to be made, that these weren't just 'homeless' people she was encountering, these were humans just like her.
Preceding the 'Christmas On the Streets' concept Roseanne volunteered with the 'The Big Umbrella' in secondary school not knowing that it would be the first step toward the life-changing journey ahead of her. The initial desire to 'serve' was brought about by Roseanne's aspiration to be a missionary overseas, however, due to other commitments, this desire was manifested in a more local context. She explains, "Around the same time I wanted to be an overseas missionary, a friend of mine also wanted to practice his faith in a deeper way. He told me that after experiencing a period of spiritual dryness he wanted to start serving the homeless. The idea of getting out there and serving the people in our own backyard right now really resonated with me.”
Following her first encounter with the homeless Roseanne felt a sense of 'peace' in their company and moreover, there was an internal change that would continue until today - this was where she belonged, in that moment. It's not about chasing the initial peace she felt when she first went out on the streets - it's more than that. It's a real, organic relationship that grows from an act of love that is small but has the potential of making a big difference in the life of anyone - "You spend time with the people you love, and you invest, not necessarily with money but with kinship, in the people you love and I genuinely love them."
"people, you encounter on the streets, keep saying ‘I can’t thank you enough’ or ‘what can I give you for my gratitude?’ I just think, ‘you opening up to me is giving me way more than I can ever give you,’ and this grows into becoming the most special bond. I wouldn’t trade my friendships with my brothers and sisters on the streets for the world.”
The vision Roseanne has for all of this is already growing, she has an event called 'Christmas on the Streets: Winter Edition' lined up for this year in July and hopes to see more involvement alongside the love for all people in our city to continually grow. When asked to explain her passion for serving, further, she said,
"IT'S NOT just A CHARITY THING, IT'S NOT even A SERVICE THING... IT'S A HUMAN THING. YOU HELP ONE ANOTHER AND YOU PICK ONE ANOTHER UP. SO THAT'S WHY I DO IT BECAUSE WE NEED TO PICK EACH OTHER UP.I can't change the issue surrounding homelessness by myself. It took me a long time to accept that, but through this acceptance I've learnt how important it is to put pride and differences aside in order to come together and help whoever we can, whenever we can. You and me, us together. Yeah I can organise an event, but real change happens when we work in communion with each otheR"
CHRISTMAS ON THE STREETS: WINTER EDITION
This event, much like Christmas on the Streets last year, will provide a safe and welcoming environment. It is a chance for people to come together and hand out warm clothes, blankets, food, drinks and offer good company and conversation with the homeless in Melbourne. They'll even be able to receive a haircut from The Streets' Barber, another person who is making a difference to life on the streets - one haircut at a time. Christmas on the Streets: Winter Edition invites anyone who is interested in donating what they can - whether it is their time, some food, some clothes, anything to help - to contribute in making this difference. For more information on this follow this link to the event:
THE STREETS' BARBER
Roseanne, amongst all other things, is also a personal assistant to Nasir Sobhani, whom many might know as the Streets' Barber.
Nasir is a recovered drug addict who through the process of recovery made the move from Canada to Melbourne. With the help of his family, Nasir became a barber, describing his new found passion as his 'new high,' cutting hair and forming bonds with his clients. Most of Nasir's drive comes from his spiritual awareness to bring about a greater good for all, cutting hair is his way of showing gratitude to the world that he was able to overcome that chapter in his life, which made way for this new chapter; where he can cut hair and transform lives.
Nasir goes out on the street on his days off and meets the homeless where they're at and picks them up, reminding them of their worth. He speaks to the first person he sees and offers to give haircuts, to shave them or other hair treatments. Nasir doesn't go out get clients, he goes out to make friends,
'to give a voice to the voiceless' is his MISSION.
For Roseanne, Nasir is an inspiration for all she stands for and for her vision to break down social barriers. “He makes me feel like I’m not alone. In a world where we feel we’re constantly bombarded with bad news, it’s so beautiful to know that there are other people out there genuinely wanting to bring about goodness. That’s what he does, and it constantly inspires me.”
This life-giving concept is something that can only continue to grow, through hard work, through more involvement, through persistence, but moreover through the realisation that before we are anything else... we are all human.