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  • Liane Morris

Nourish your HEART and your SOUL | Soul Hub


Soul hub
Image Source: Soul Hub

The Sleepout for Soul began in 2015 with just 18 participants raising $18,000 for Soul Hub,a Newcastle-based, grassroots, volunteer- driven, local charity specialising in supporting vulnerable, homeless, mentally unwell, socially isolated and addicted people.

 

Fast forward to 2023, and over 350 participants raised in excess of $200,000 in what has become a local favourite on the city’s fundraising events calendar. Organisers are hoping that the number of participants and funds raised will once again grow at this year’s event, to be held 17 May.


Soul Hub relies on Sleepout for Soul asits major annual fundraiser and invites the Newcastle community to join in the fun at the Bolton Street Carpark, where the atmosphere is party-like.


The General Manager of Soul Hub, Matthew Ortiger says that the event has evolved from its humble beginnings to an event that creates community connection and engagement and that has a broad appeal.

“It’s a real party atmosphere,” said Matthew.


“We take over the whole car park, which overlooks the harbour. We gather on the roof to

dance and listen to live music (this year’s band is the MacReid duo). There are fire pits, kid’s activities, food trucks, coffee vans, auctions, and a chance to meet the Soul Hub family and learn more about what we do. It’s a wonderful sense of community.


“It attracts a wide range of people, everyday mums and dads with their kids, school groups, youth groups and older couples – a big mix. People set up their ‘camp’ in the four levels below the rooftop, some with tents and blow-up beds, others doing it the authentic way and sleeping on cardboard with just a sleeping bag.”


Registrations are still open to Sleep Out with family, friends, neighbours, yoga groups, sports teams, schoolmates, teachers, workmates, employers and just about any group you can imagine, and people are encouragedto get creative. If you can’t join the mainevent at Bolton Street, it’s ok to organise a group sleepout at your clubhouse, school or community hall, business premises, camping ground, or wherever you have permission to lay a sleeping bag – just remember to send photos to Soul Hub and tag @SoulHubNewcastle on social media.


The process is simple. Participants register online (visit www.soulhub.org.au), and an individual fundraising page will be automatically set up for you. You have the option to start or join a team, and you can personalise your page with images, messaging and fundraising goals. Share it with your family, friends, and colleagues and start fundraising. If you don’t wish to fundraise but still want to participate, you can simply make a donation.


Martin Bigg originally came to the SoulHub from the Defence Force, where he served 20 years between the Navy and the RAAF. He was introduced to the hub in 2019 as a way to help with a mental illness triggered by PTSD that he was dealing with. It wasn’t long before Martin began helping others as a volunteer, and he now works four days per week as a Guest Support Coordinator. This year will be his third Sleep Out with his wife Tamara and his 12-year- old daughter Aaliyah.

“It’s a fantastic experience,” said Martin.


“It’s great for the kids. Last year, my daughter brought two of her friends with her, and they had a blast. We bring our esky with food and drink, but we also enjoy the hot food from the food trucks.


“Whilst it’s not really an authentic experience of homelessness, it does make the young ones more aware of what life can be like. They learn that things can go wrong and people can make bad choices, and I think that’s important. The kids did fundraisers at their school last year, pyjama days and the like. I’m proud of them.”


Martin has changed the lives of many of the Soul Hub guests in his work as a coordinator, often just by enjoying a coffee with someone, having a laugh, providing them with a listening ear, and pointing them in the right direction.


“I’m like the class clown. We have a great laugh and lots of fun banter. After my own experiences with mental health issues, I understand it more and have a real drive to help others on their journey.”


Soul Hub was the vision of Life Church and was formally established in 2003 as Soul Cafe. Dedicated to supporting the most vulnerable people in our community, it does more than serve up meals, although, in 2023, its 265 volunteers served up over 63,900 meals.


“The people we support are called guests,” said Matthew.


“And they can be anyone, from all walks of life. We don’t judge. We serve breakfast every day and lunch four days a week. We’re hereto offer sustenance, a friendly face, and many other types of essential support, including haircuts, laundry, legal and medical services, and drug and substance abuse programs—we do whatever we can, with whatever we have, for whoever walks through our door.”


The people who do walk through the door can come from all over Newcastle and the Lake Macquarie area. Many of them struggle with addiction or mental illness, but others are socially isolated, experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness.

“In many instances, it’s the social connection that is the prime motivator for our guests,” said Matthew.


Image Source: Soul Hub
Image Source: Soul Hub

Recently, Soul Hub moved to a new purpose- built facility in premises donated by the Ianand Shirley Norman Foundation – providing rent-free accommodation for ten years at 437 Hunter Street Newcastle. This means that with only one full-time member of staff and five part- time members of staff, running costs are kept to a minimum, and donations go to where they’re needed. There is no government funding. Soul Hub is a fully community-funded charity – funded by Novocastrians for Novocastrians.


For people wishing to get involved inthe valuable work that Soul Hub does, there are many ways to do so, from being a major sponsor to making a cash donation, donating an item for auction or becoming an active participant in a fundraising event such as this month’s Sleepout for Soul.


Enjoy a fun, family-friendly event and learn more about the extensive work of Soul Hub

supporting Newcastle’s most vulnerable. Soul Hub is way ‘more than a meal.’ Soul is a ‘Convergence of Help.’


AS MATTHEWSAYS, “EVERYONE’S WELCOME BECAUSE NOBODY’S PERFECT,AND ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.”

And as one of the vulnerable guests said about Soul:


“Soul to me means family. If you are someone who’s never been here before, a volunteer, a donor or a guest, the minute you set foot through the door, you’ve become part of a family that cares and looks out for each other without judgment. It’s a family you feel has got your back not only for now but forever.”


Image Source: Soul Hub
Image Source: Soul Hub

This inspirational level of passion is common among the volunteers, the guests, the staffand the supporters of Soul Hub as it servesa vital, otherwise largely unmet need in our community. It’s not too late to register and fundraise for this year’s Sleepout for Soul. Simply visit the website www.soulhub.org.au and follow the prompts. All funds raised enable the organisation to provide the many services our community needs and improve access to an increasing number of support agencies. By joining in the fun on 17 May, you will have the chance to see and hear first-hand how this passionate community organisation transforms the lives of so many, and you can be a part of the solution at a time when more and more people are finding themselves vulnerable to the challenges of modern life.


Register now at www.soulhub.org.au and participate in something that is guaranteed to nourish your heart and your soul.

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