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Two weeks ago, members of the AIWC’s Volunteer Services team gathered at Partage, a local charitable organization, to sort goods collected during Samedi du Partage. November’s collection day was record-setting: more than 143 tons of donations were collected at 75 local grocery stores. Thank you to everyone who took part in the sorting, and to everyone who donated food and household items on Samedi du Partage! 

It’s Wednesday morning, 9am. Seventeen women and two daughters have gathered in the warm break room at Partage. They are about to delve into the job of sorting 143 tons of food and sanitary items collected from Saturday’s canton-wide food collection. Steven, their English speaking boss for the morning, is introducing himself and invites them for a quick tour of the warehouse facilities.

He shows them the kitchen where lovely aromas of soup waft out of unseen pots. He says that Partage makes 75 liters of soup daily to feed about 250 “underground” people. He moves on to the refrigeration center which feels warmer than today’s warehouse. He points out the compost machine which transforms vegetables to dirt in ten days so it can be sold and lastly, shows the large storage center. It seems empty even though 10 tons of food is collected weekly from the grocery stores, bakeries and Procter and Gamble.

Steven seems overwhelmed by all these women. He keeps telling them that they are so many. The group quickly finds out why. The system is set up so three people unload crates of mixed food items on a table while the remaining women place the items in pallets labeled for pasta, canned foods, rice, diapers and sanitary items; as well as crates labeled for jams, sugar, cocoa, etc. The three people at the table cannot keep up with the rest of the group.

Soon the women no longer ask Steven questions nor ask him to bring out more crates. He’s too busy moving full pallets to the storage room. They go to the back themselves, wheel out boxes and set them in the middle of the floor. It is more efficient this way. They are laughing and chatting and filling pallets and crates. By 10:30 there is a coffee and sandwich break; then back to work. They are supposed to sort goods until noon but by 11:45 an exhausted Steven says “stop!” It seems that the AIWC women have sorted more food than the Partage people can handle in such a short time. They need to reorganize pallets in order to make more space.

Back in the break room, the women are still laughing and chatting and feeling good about the work they did that morning. As they leave the warehouse, they disperse in all directions shouting to one another, “Have a good day! See you at the club.”

Group photo!

For more information about Partage, visit our blog post Samedi du Partage: Coming to a grocery store near you.

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/.