Work, work, work, Monday to Friday, the daily grind, working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living…… now don’t get me wrong, I really like my day job, but there will always be times you enjoy it a little more than others. So it presents a challenge to the higher ups, how to keep team morale high? The idea was recently suggested to the team I work in, by our then relatively new boss, that we might be interested in a visit to Ronald McDonald House for one of their corporate volunteering programs. Ronald McDonald House Perth keeps families close by providing a home away from home for regional WA families who have a sick child receiving hospital treatment in Perth. Now they do have a volunteering policy at work, but beyond using my allocated hours to donate blood, if I’m honest I’d never really thought much about how I could volunteer further, which was pretty slack of me. The Home For Dinner program at Ronald McDonald House actually sounded ideal, plus it is nice to do some team building and step away from the desks we spend so many hours behind. I also love to cook, so it ticked all the boxes!
The Home For Dinner program invites teams of co-workers, teammates, community groups, friends or family members to prepare and cook a meal for the families staying at Ronald McDonald House. Parents will often return to the House after a long day at the hospital with their child and preparing and cooking a meal may be the last thing on their minds.
The House in Nedlands is fitted with a commercial kitchen and a full time chef to provide you with professional catering support. We provide the kitchen, food and expert catering support – you provide the manpower! Dress up, decorate the dining room, theme your experience how you wish. Groups wishing to take part will be asked to make a financial contribution to cover the costs of ingredients.
After cooking dinner, we encourage you to sit down and enjoy dinner whilst spending time getting to know our RMH families. Then finish up your evening with a tour of our fabulous home away from home. We can ensure you’ll have an awesome time and a very rewarding experience, all whilst helping make families lives that little bit easier.
The group headed along to the house on a Friday after 3pm and helped the in house chef prepare dinner for the residents. In their impressive new location, Ronald McDonald House can look after up to 50 families or around 200 people when they are near full capacity. For the first time our group cooked together I was quite thankful that we would only be cooking for around 80, which I thought made more sense and seemed more achievable for this eager group of wannabe master chefs.
The new facilities include a very impressive commercial kitchen and our group keenly listened to Chef Darryl for instructions. We had chosen a menu and had the choice of either being lead by the Chef or we could go it alone and he would step in when required. I have to say it would be a bold group, much more confident than ours, that volunteered to go it alone. So we put ourselves in the capable hands of Chef Darryl and as he assigned dishes, the action soon kicked up a gear.
On the menu was:
- Potato Broccoli Bake
- Chicken Peri Peri
- Meatballs and Spaghetti
- Chickpea Curry
- Fried Rice
- Honey Ginger Pork Belly
- Soup: Bacon and Mushroom
Now they do have some speakers set up so if you have a playlist on your phone then you can give that a run, but do note that everyone in there will be passing judgement on your music choices – as I soon found out! I made no apologies though because I had forewarned people that it was an eclectic collection, but potentially bouncing from Confide in Me to Chop Suey to Cows with Guns surprised even them, but hey I was enjoying the tunes.
So you basically have a few hours to get everything ready and into the warmers to be good to go for the 6pm dinner bell. I believe the key to how memorable an experience it was in the kitchen, was how incredibly chill Chef Darryl was. He’d done some prep beforehand so even though there was still a fair bit to do, with his army of eager rookies at the ready he ensured everything that needed doing got done. He was friendly and encouraging and so relaxed! It was just lovely.
We all happily worked away and before we knew it everything was in the oven and there was a brief interlude before dinner when we could go for a quick tour. The new facilities are so impressive. There’s been a lot of careful thought and consideration as to the design of the rooms to try to make what is an incredibly difficult and stressful time for any family that little bit easier. And there is a part of me that was heartbroken to think that the facility was even needed, but illness and injury can be an unfortunate reality of life and at least a place like this can soften that experience slightly for the family of a child who is suffering. One of my favourite features is this extensive mobile they have running in a clear tube from the roof down to the ground floor and it elegantly displays the artwork of patients from the previous Subiaco house that has been transformed in a brightly coloured Perspex version of their creation. It’s unique, beautiful and entirely memorable.
We hurried back downstairs after calling into the education centre to marvel at the inspiring set up they have there to ensure that sick kids and their siblings continue their learning during tough times.
Then it was back into action! Dishes that had been warming in the oven were lined up in the Bain Marie and the hungry masses descended. It was actually pleasing as the wannabe chefs got to see folks eagerly sampling each dish.
Once residents had eaten we were invited to help ourselves too. After putting a little of this and a little of that on your plate it was actually quite the mountain of food, so I exercised considerable restraint so that mine perhaps was more of a modest hill than a giant mountain. It was all tasty though (if I do say so myself). Chef Darryl had directed us well.
Now while eating our dinner we were encouraged to sit with residents for a chat. I’ll admit that this had been the part I was most nervous about. I had wondered why they would want to talk to a stranger when someone so close to them was going through something so challenging. The residents though were really happy to have a chat with us and it actually felt quite special that they were willing to take that time given the rest of their day may have been spent next to a hospital bed. And I think that’s what I realised was special about this experience. We couldn’t take away the struggles of their kids as they worked to get well, but we could throw ourselves into an afternoon of cooking to ensure that the residents enjoyed a tasty and wholesome meal prepared with our good intentions and desire to do even a little something that would hopefully show that people do care.
At the end of the night you help with some of the cleaning up, but in all honesty Chef Darryl had everything under control. He was the perfect person to lead our group and I felt fortunate I got to be his kitchen hand for the evening.
So if you work in a group of around 10 and are looking for a really rewarding team building exercise then get in touch with Ronald McDonald House and see how you can get involved. I thoroughly recommend the Home For Dinner program as an entertaining and memorable way to spend a few hours with your colleagues. Go Team!