Ten years is a long time to wait when you’re six.
So, when Andi Treloar was told she needed to be 16 to volunteer at a homeless food bank, the news didn’t sit very well because she wanted do something now.
“I saw somebody on the street and asked my mum ‘why isn’t he at home resting?’ and then she explained it to me,” Andi told 9news.com.au.
Mum Rebekah Treloar said her daughter’s “big, beautiful heart” was instantly overwhelmed by the injustice of homelessness.
“She just could not get it out of her head,” she said.
Eating at a restaurant later that day, Andi realised choosing what to eat from a menu simply wasn’t an option for many people living on the streets.
“I got to work at writing a menu and I thought ‘we’re starting a restaurant today!’,” Andi said.
With help from her parents, she started delivering home-made “snack packs” filled with all her favourite food to people living rough in Adelaide, where her dad was working at the time.
While feeding people and showing them someone cares is an obviously satisfying part of her work, Andi said her favourite part is the reactions of the people she meets.
One man was so overcome with emotion he couldn’t speak but “put his hands on his heart”. Another yelled “I love kids!”
A little over a year later, and now living in Melbourne’s western suburbs, Andi has big plans for that ‘restaurant’ – a mobile food truck staffed by herself and her friends.
It will be painted white, with green lettering, and emblazoned with the Food For Freepanda mascot, inspired by her nickname ‘Andi Pandi’.
And it’s going to have a menu. Andi is determined that people experiencing homeless are given not just a hot meal, but choices.
The young girl’s work has attracted a lot of attention.
Earlier this month, Andi was awarded the inaugural 2019 Pretty Inspirational Award by the Pretty Foundation.
The foundation works to recognise girls – not for what they look like, but for who they are.
“She just blew our minds,” Pretty Foundation founder Merissa Forsyth said.
“She’s so full of life, so real and genuine.
“The compassion that she had at that young age, and then the ability to just go and do it.
“We need to focus on what girls can do, what they can give back, their abilities, their character, because that’s far, far more important than what they look like.”
Ms Forsyth started the Pretty Foundation in response to a startling statistic published in the Journal of Eating Disorders, which stated 38 per cent of four-year-old girls are dissatisfied with their bodies.
While there is a multitude of programs promoting positive body image of women and teens, Ms Forsyth found a gap in early childhood education.
“We run programs that speak to parents and educators and try to make them aware of these sorts of issues and give them the tools and resources to go build confidence in their young girls,” she said.
“We have to actually build resilience and stop it from happening rather than have to deal with it once it happens and it’s ingrained.
“If girls are not held back by body image issues they will go on to do incredible things.”
Andi was chosen as the winner of the 2019 Pretty Compassionate Award, as well as the overall 2019 Pretty Inspirational Award, by a credentialed panel including Business Chicks Australia CEO Olivia Ruello, Adore Beauty founder Kate Morris and Australia Post’s General Manager Segment Development and Marketing – Business and Government, Rebecca Burrows.
Awards were also given to celebrate other qualities, such as “Pretty Artistic”, “Pretty Courageous”, and “Pretty Innovative” among others, with winners including a 13-year-old raising tens of thousands of dollars for wildlife conservation and a 10-year-old claiming autism as her superpower and educating her classmates to help combat bullying.
Andi is now working with the Laverton Point Cook Rotary Club to get her food truck on the road.
Meanwhile, her mum is buried in the paperwork required to get Food For Freeregistered as an official charity.
“It can be very confronting, it’s challenging, it’s not an easy thing to do, but we can’t not do it because it’s too hard,” Mrs Treloar said.
“You have to fan the spark, you don’t want to put it out.”