By Kathy Wilson (Author) and Community Friends volunteer.
|I first notice Rap as he is standing in line at Bunyapa Park, waiting for the food giveaway to start. With a tartan kilt, long beard and rockstar headphones, he is the kind of person who stands out in a crowd. |
I approach, a little intimidated, but his smile is warm as he turns to me. I ask him if we can take a photo. He laughs “it’s the kilt isn’t it?” he asks. It is, but it is more than that.
There is a lifetime of stories in his face, and I want to know more. I start by asking him how long he has been coming to the food giveaway. “Years,” he says.
“A friend of mine used to do something similar, but then he sadly passed away. Mark stepped in, and I’ve been coming ever since. It is the best in the area.”
When I ask him what the weekly food giveaway means to him, Rap doesn’t have to think about his answer. “Freedom,” he says instantly. “The giveaway gives me freedom.” I ask him to tell me more, and now he does pause, as he searches for the right words.
“You feel welcome when you come down here,” he says. “These guys here aren’t looking at you like you are somehow less. They aren’t always telling you to leave. They are decent about everything, and they want to help. It feels like this is our community and our community park.”
Community means a lot to Rap. A long-term West End resident he has recently moved into his own place in Highgate Hill. He was living in a noisy lodge on Boundary street that never felt like home.
Just before April the local police got involved and said they’d see if they could help. They called him shortly after to say they had good news. He had a place.
“It feels so good to have my own space,” he says. “It is hard to describe the feeling after so long, not feeling safe.”
Rap has ideas about what the area needs, and it isn’t more coffee shops.
“West End needs more places where there are activities – things to do together. I’d love to open a roller skating rink,” he says. “A place where people can just hang out. Somewhere along Montague Road would be perfect.”
Who knows? Maybe that’s next. Rap has been playing the same numbers on lotto, PowerBall and set for life for more than 8 years.
If his number comes up, that’s how he’d like to give back to the community that has helped him so much.
|Till next time|
(Founder) Community Friends.
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