A warm welcome greeted the Governor General of New Zealand, Dame Cindy Kiro, as she visited the Compassion Soup Kitchen on Saturday June 18. As a volunteer with whānau guests who came for a hot meal, the Governor General’s visit coincided with the celebration of the 187th birthday of Meri Hōhepa Suzanne Aubert.
Accompanied by His Excellency Richard Davies, Dame Cindy was welcomed by Danny Karatea-Goddard, Co-General Manager – Tumu Whakarae – of the Sisters of Compassion group, and Sam Johnson, Soup Kitchen Manager.
Founded by Meri Hōhepa 121 years ago, the Compassion Soup Kitchen, located at 132 Tory Street in central Wellington, is a key part of food security in Wellington. After a health and safety briefing, Dame Cindy and Dr Richard Davies got ready and put on standard personal protective equipment (PPE), and proceeded to serve meals and talk to whānau guests for 1 hour and a half.
At the end of the evening meal service, they highlighted the work of Compassion Soup Kitchen in continuing Mother Aubert’s remarkable legacy of supporting those in need in our community.
“Although Meri Hōhepa’s mission was to ensure there was no need for a soup kitchen in Wellington, the need for a free hot meal is growing for many in our city,” said Dr. Chris Gallavin, Co-General Manager – Tumu Whakare. “Over the next few months, we will do everything we can to meet this need,” he added.
The Compassion Soup Kitchen serves nearly 200 meals a day and has delivered more than 50,000 meals in the past twelve months, serving breakfast between 7:45 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. and dinner between 4:45 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. , Monday to Saturday. “Anyone who walks through that door in need gets a meal,” said Soup Kitchen manager Sam Johnson.
Dame Cindy’s visit was part of a series of activities to mark the anniversary of the birth of Meri Hōhepa Suzanne Aubert, who is also remembered at a special Mass held at the Notre-Dame Compassionate House Chapel. Dame, at Island Bay on Sunday, June 19.
The ceremony was led by Cardinal John Dew, who highlighted how Meri Hōhepa had a heart full of love for all, saying, “Let’s have a heart like an artichoke and so big that everyone can have a leaf of it. “.
The 187th birthday celebration remembered the legacy of Suzanne Aubert, who was born on June 19, 1835 in Saint-Symphorien-de-Lay, near Lyon in France, and emigrated to Aotearoa New Zealand in 1860.
Meri Hōhepa Suzanne Aubert was a prominent teacher, nurse, health care innovator, social welfare pioneer, and advocate for disadvantaged children, the poor, and the sick “of all faiths and none.”
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