Looking back from this moment, Sarah Bendetsky can clearly see life experiences that led her to work and live to care for the elderly and less fortunate. She tells me, in no uncertain terms, that children light up a room for elders. She was only a teenager when her school would visit elderly homes to visit residents. She had moved from Moscow to New York and as the only Russian-speaking student, she was paired with Russian immigrants, her presence was a gift to them from their homeland. A young person with sparks of familiarity, generosity, curiosity and tenderness.
This model of mentoring to care for elders continued and Sarah’s journey into understanding the needs of the elderly migrants and the wider community grew when she boarded with her mathematics teacher. Every Friday, her landlady would visit an aged care home, she helped old people voluntarily and took Sarah along with her. Sarah could see the fundamental value in providing companionship and care for the elderly, the residents who had given so much of themselves to care for their communities were now needing something in return, something that Sarah had in spades, love and time.
The second big shift in Sarah’s life came when her and her husband Avi moved to Melbourne. She landed a marketing role in a community service and aged care organisation, Jewish Care. Previously she had worked as a journalist and knew how to write a story. She would interview residents and compile stories of everyday community heroes. Residents that were anything but everyday in their past life, immigrants that had lived through World War II and somehow managed to recreate their lives. Some of these people were lone Holocaust survivors that went on to create business empires through sheer perseverance and hope; others were able to start new families, despite the horror of seeing their loved ones perish in front of their eyes. From this experience Sarah realised the baton was being passed, these people have done everything for their community, and now it was our turn to continue what they started.
In 2018, together with her husband Avi and a close friend, Alona Krapivin, Sarah established Souper Kitchen. This non-profit community kitchen makes and delivers meals to people in need. It started on the back of Sarah wanting to visit her father for his birthday in Moscow. Unable to get there she held a community event to make her Dad feel special. Dozens of volunteers joined Sarah on the day and it was a great success.
This idea flourished into regular cook-offs for older people, as well as those with a disability, new migrants and isolated community members. The feeling of a burgeoning community being well fed was infectious. The energy of companionship and food aligned and Sarah realised she was onto something, “what if we could expand to create meals for new migrants or people post-surgery or oncology patients?”. Comfort food is medicinal and good, home-cooked meals or fresh ingredients are a connection to health, wellbeing and community.
Souper Kitchen has grown to connect and supply 1500 monthly meals to community members, as well as produce and household item delivery and care. Pure chance and hard work have led Sarah to form philanthropic relationships with other organisations that help this volunteer organisation run smoothly. It is growing but with it, so is her expertise. As a parent she sees the benefit of proving to her kids that humanity, at its best, is an exchange of what you have in your heart to give, no matter the age or ability.
We believe in the power of stories to illuminate and educate. Through sharing our experiences of getting older and caring for those around us, we can help each other navigate the challenges we will all face at some stage in our lives.
If you would like to share your story, email us. We have a team of talented writers who would love to talk to you and help bring your story to life.