Got a problem in your community? Get angry – then take action!

Posted on 08 Sep 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia


Faced with a frustrating lack of action on pressing issues in her local community, veteran volunteer Vaissy Dasler chose to take matters into her own hands.

Not volunteering has never been an option for Vaissy Dasler.

For two decades the passionate believer in people power has instinctively put her hand up to be counted when it comes to aiding those in need.

“I’ve always believed that it was my responsibility to help the less fortunate as I’ve been pretty blessed in life,” said Vaissy, who calls Melbourne’s inner north home.

“I feel that most people can spare at least an hour a week to positively contribute to others that are worse off.

“There are so many opportunities to help our community.”

For Vaisy, though, it’s not just about seizing opportunities to help – it's also about creating them.

Rather than watch helplessly as many charitable food relief services stopped operating at the height of the pandemic in 2020, Vaissy started Nourishing Neighbours to fill the gap and deliver food to vulnerable Victorians.

The same can-do attitude came to the fore when she noticed the vast number of good quality items being discarded as rubbish.

Nourishing Neighbours logo

Vaissy’s response was to create Hard Rubbish Rescue, a community-powered Facebook group dedicated to saving still-useable cast-off items from landfill and redirecting them to those in need.

“Seeing great condition items being carelessly thrown out as trash when there were so many people in need in our community didn’t make sense and was something simple to fix.”

While designed to solve two different problems, each project stemmed from Vaissy’s frustration at inaction.

“I don’t purposefully look for projects,” she explained.

“Rather, I get frustrated with how things are done (or not done!).”

Vaissy said she has always felt driven to make a difference in people’s lives, a philosophy forged by her 15 years as a radiation therapist treating cancer patients.

“I found that helping others really helped me too. It made me feel like I was living a worthwhile life of value.

“Life is short and it’s so easy to make someone else’s life a little more pleasant or easy. It’s what gives me self-worth.”

It’s why Vaissy felt she couldn’t sit back and do nothing when charities began suspending food distribution services for four months amid Melbourne’s severe covid lockdowns.

“This frustrated me beyond belief and wasn’t good enough,” she said.

“The vulnerable were being let down and someone had to help, and it was so easy to help.”

Hard Rubbish Rescue plate
Vaissy displays one of the items retrieved and repurposed by the Hard Rubbish Rescue team.

While she had some experience volunteering at Vinnies Soup Vans and at Helping Hands Mission, Vaissy had never contemplated starting her own charity.

“It [Nourishing Neighbours] was solely done to fill the gap in the community and to do what a charity should do – help people in the most trying and hard times.”

With little experience but an abundance of passion, Vaissy learned through trial and error.

“The local Rotary club gave us a shed to work from and with the help of many amazing volunteers we feed people through support agency referral.”

The service has continued to grow and now boasts 25 volunteers who work with services specialising in mental health, housing, refugees, Aboriginal health and other areas.

Clients can order online, ensuring they have access to food that is culturally appropriate and specific to their dietary needs.

“We also provide them toiletries, nappies, baby formula, cleaning products, period products and more,” said Vaissy.

“If something makes you mad, do something about it!"
Driving force behind Nourishing Neighbours and Hard Rubbish Rescue, Vaissy Dasler

Hard Rubbish Rescue by contrast, is a Facebook group that started four years ago almost by accident.

“I created it just for me and a couple of friends so we could share pictures of cool hard rubbish piles and awesome items that were being thrown out,” said Vaissy.

“We would then rescue items for people or charities we know that needed them.”

Driven by a network of friends, the group surged from just three to more than 200 members in its first week.

The Hard Rubbish Rescue Facebook group now has more than 26,000 members, who enthusiastically share images and locations of hard rubbish piles, rehome unwanted items, and share upcycling and restoration tricks.

The concept has also expanded into other municipalities.

While proud of the success of Nourishing Neighbours and Hard Rubbish Rescue, Vaissy said there have been obstacles along the way.

Key among them for Nourishing Neighbours is a lack of financial support.

“We rely on the kindness of members of the community and community grants from businesses when available.

“We also need a bigger space if we are to increase client numbers and meet demand.”

Nourishing Neighbours van
Vaissy about to hit the road with another food delivery courtesy of Nourishing Neighbours.

Vaissy laments the lack of council support for Hard Rubbish Rescue.

“Rubbish disposal is something we all pay for through our rates, but essentially all the money is spent on landfill fees when there are rehoming and reuse options,” she said.

“These are better options environmentally and financially, whilst reducing consumption and saving consumers money. It’s a no brainer!”

Vaissy has some simple advice for anyone who may be considering following in her footsteps.

“If something makes you mad, do something about it!

“Both Nourishing Neighbours and Hard Rubbish Rescue were born out of frustration.

“Anger is a big emotion and it made me take action. Speak up and say things are not right, services are not adequate.

“Think outside the box. Do things differently, how you think they should be done.”

Vaissy says the success of Nourishing Neighbours and Hard Rubbish Rescue are testament to the power of community action.

“I feel that most people want to help but don’t know how,” she said.

“Programs like ours are connecting the community, empowering residents to save and rehome items from landfill and to help those experiencing food insecurity.

“We need more opportunities like this in the community for people to contribute – simple ways people can help – because most people want to be a part of something bigger and have the opportunity to help others and change a life for the better.”

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