Every year the Salvos Stores team conduct an internal fundraiser and last year’s ‘Tour de Salvos Stores’ raised over $126,000 for several Salvation Army projects, one of which was a trailer for the Indigenous Ministries in South Australia. Katrina Stropinski, HR Admin Assistant, tells us about the week a group of Salvos Stores staff assisted in a mission to take goods into the Aboriginal communities of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.
Majors Denis and Kathleen White head up the Indigenous Ministry in SA which takes furniture, clothes and household goods into Aboriginal communities of the APY Lands. Before Salvos Stores fundraising efforts, Denis and Kathleen only had a 16 tonne truck to take up as much furniture and goods as possible into communities that are desperately in need of them. The trailer not only allows Denis and Kathleen to take more goods into the lands, but also provides shelter if they get stuck in a remote location. Each trip into the lands takes around a week and involves a team of volunteers to help with the packing of the truck, driving, unloading of the truck and of course the sale day, which is just as busy as a Boxing Day sale! Denis and Kathleen offered a team of Salvos Stores staff members the opportunity to accompany and help them on their August mission to the town of Pipalyatjara in the APY Lands.
Each trip into the lands takes around a week and involves a team of volunteers to help with the packing of the truck, driving, unloading of the truck and of course the sale day, which is just as busy as a Boxing Day sale!
The mission started at 6.30am on Monday 3rd August where the Salvos Stores team (consisting of Sean Burgess- Regional Manager WA/SA, Michael Frost-Area Manager Northern SA, Sue Iliov-Area Manager South Eastern Vic and myself) met Denis, Kathleen and volunteer Catherine at the warehouse. The truck and trailer had been packed during the previous week with help from Salvos Stores staff members. A blessing was said by Lieutenant Colonel Robyn Clinch and Major Rhonda Elkington and we were on our way just as the sun was rising.
We didn’t really know what to expect on this week long “working holiday”, but we did know we were in for early mornings, late nights, hard work and long drives.
We didn’t really know what to expect on this week long “working holiday”, but we did know we were in for early mornings, late nights, hard work and long drives. Our first night was at Coober Pedy, a mere 850km from Adelaide!! Sean, Michael and Sue found Woomera’s only Thrift Shop, which is run on an honesty policy!
Before we reached Coober Pedy, we pulled over on the side of the Stuart Highway to capture the first of many amazing sunsets we would witness on this trip.
Day two began at 5.45am as we repacked the support vehicle “Bluey” and hit the road. Although the morning start was a lot earlier than most of us were used to, we were rewarded with a magical sunrise that made the earth glow fluorescent orange. We hit our first major landmark at lunchtime; the border of South Australia and the Northern Territory! Hitting the border meant we would soon be off the highway and starting our long journey on the dirt roads! We spent 200kms on the dirt roads before arriving midafternoon at our stop for the night, Ernabella (the largest community in the APY Lands).
As we had a free afternoon, Denis wanted to show us something quite remarkable, a fruit orchard in the middle of the desert! The orchard was created in 2005 by a couple who wanted to improve food security in the APY Lands. The orchard provides employment opportunities for locals and is used to educate local children on growing food and nutrition. We picked several boxes of mandarins and oranges to take to the people of Pipalyatjara, as fresh fruit is generally quite expensive.
When we arrived at Pipalyatjara, we started unloading the truck with the mattresses and bases, which we had to leave outside for the time being as the room we had access to was too small. Some of the locals also helped us unload the larger items, while the kids helped carry in the smaller items.
We unloaded suitcases full of clothes, tables, chairs, microwaves, toasters, toys, bunk-beds, cutlery and so much more! We had some spare time before dinner, so we headed down to the local oval for a kick of the footy. Although there wasn’t much footy talent between us Salvos Staff, we did have some local Aboriginal teens show us how it was done, in bare feet too! It was an incredible experience to be able to play kick to kick with the locals while the sun set on another amazing day.
Although there wasn’t much footy talent between us Salvos Staff, we did have some local Aboriginal teens show us how it was done, in bare feet too!
Sale day began with an early 5.30am wake up and we were on the road to Pipalyatjara by 6.15am. There was still a lot of work to be done beforethe 9am sale. We started by taking all of the furniture and bed ensembles out of the community centre and lining them up on the dirt outside, as we would need all the room we could get inside for the clothing and brica.
The locals started arriving as the sun rose not long after 7am; sitting on the beds and furniture to “claim” them before the sale started. We also set up an admin table where the locals would need to fill out Centrepay forms, giving permission for the payment of their goods to be deducted from their pension. Close to 9am, Denis said a blessing for the smooth running of the sale and explained how the sale would work. Then the doors opened…
It was mayhem for the next three hours as most of the furniture, clothes and bric-a-brac were sold.
For dinner we drove out to the SA/WA/NT state border and had a fire barbeque while watching another spectacular sunset. It was an incredible way to finish a mammoth but very rewarding day.
We had a big day ahead of us on our last day; a 15 hour drive back to Adelaide! We left Marla well before sun up and started making tracks down the highway. We took a break at Coober Pedy for breakfast and then we hit the road again. Our last leg was from Port Augusta to Adelaide where we saw our last sunset in South Australia. After driving over 3000kms in total, we were all exhausted from such a busy week, but so grateful for the experience.
Thank you to Major Denis and Kathleen White for the invitation to participate in this mission. It was an incredible journey and a once in a lifetime experience to serve the aboriginal community. We have been to places not many will go and have seen things not many will see, and for that we are truly thankful.