For Thérèse Nichols, the idea to harness Australia’s love for eating out and turn it into a force to help those worse off in the world, was a direct response to the poverty she’d seen and a desire to use her gifts and talents to serve God and others.
Thérèse is the Director and Co-founder of OnePlate, an organisation which partners with restaurants, cafes pubs and bars across Australia, who nominate a specific item on their menu to be their OnePlate dish. Each time that item is ordered, $1 is donated to fund sustainable food projects in developing countries.
She will share her story of faith, food and philanthropy at the Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF) in Sydney this December.
Thérèse says faith was a pivotal part of her youth in country Victoria, and continues to be so.
“For me, God is at the centre of my life,” she says. “My greatest desire is to love Him, serve Him and love others.”
After graduating from university, Thérèse lived in London, travelling across Europe for 18 months and working in marketing and public relations for the Estee Lauder cosmetics company.
Before coming home, she took part in the Emmanuel School of Mission in Rome for a year, an experience she describes as life changing.
“I absolutely loved it, and really grew in faith, and while I was there I came across a homily from St John Paul II about building the Civilisation of Love,” she says. “That homily really impacted me.”
Returning to Australia, Thérèse worked for World Youth Day 2008 as Communications Coordinator, including the Pilgrim Support Partnerships program, helping poorer pilgrims from throughout Oceania come to Sydney.
More study and travel followed before she took up a job with Aid to the Church in Need, an organisation which raises awareness and funds for persecuted Christians around the world.
Two years ago, Thérèse took a trip to Manila and spent a month volunteering for a foundation which feeds local street kids. Every Saturday, a small band of dedicated people provide 500 children with a meal, served with love and care.
Sitting in Adoration one day, and contemplating the scale of the poverty, the idea of OnePlate was born.
“So it wasn’t really my idea,” she laughs. “It was definitely the Holy Spirit.” Launched back home, the idea took off in Melbourne’s eating scene, and now OnePlate’s first funded project – an urban rooftop garden in the Philippines, designed to produce enough food to feed 100 street children – is a reality.
Thérèse says she can’t wait to be at the ACYF to share the stories of both the Manila street children and persecuted Christians around the world.
“They’ve got so much to teach us about how to live a life of sacrifice, love and true joy,” she says. “I hope my talk on ‘Hope and Heroism’ will help open the eyes of the young people at the Festival to the world.
“Events like ACYF are so important for young people, who are sometimes living their faith feeling isolated and unsupported,” she says. “At ACYF they see that they are part of the Universal Church and that it’s alive and beautiful.”