In 39 years working at St Vincent’s, it’s estimated that Hermina Lopes has washed 800,000 plates and almost 2 million items of cutlery.
A lot has changed at St Vincent’s since Hermina first began working in Food Services in 1977.
For starters, the manager of the kitchen was a Sister of Charity. At that time, there was not one central kitchen, but many serveries, spread across the various wards on campus.
This Saturday, Hermina will work her last shift, before retiring, to spend more time with her family.
Over the years, work and home have blended into one constant routine. ‘I wake up at 4am and come to work, then get home at 4pm and go straight to the kitchen to cook dinner and wash the clothes’ Hermina says.
Hermina fled East Timor in 1975, escaping to Australia with her husband and young daughter. After having her second child in 1977, Hermina began working in the St Vincent’s kitchen, where she has been ever since.
The Food Services team is an extremely tight knit bunch, and it is easy to see the close bond Hermina shares with her co-workers.
‘Although I am happy to be able to spend more time with my family, I am going to miss my friends. We are like sisters.’
Asked if the estimates of plates and cutlery washed are accurate, Hemina laughs, ‘We never counted, we just wanted to finish it all, but it would be millions over all these years.’
And a final reflection on her years at St V’s?
‘The work is ok, but friends make the work easier. If you have no friends here, you will find the work very difficult to cope with.’