Introducing SWAG Illawarra: A Journey of Compassion and Community

In a world where the gap between the haves and have-nots seems to be ever-widening, two brothers from Wollongong, Australia, are stepping up to make a difference. Elie Douna and Charbel Douna have launched SWAG Illawarra, a charity organisation dedicated to feeding the homeless and less fortunate in their community. 

This initiative is a testament to their commitment to making a meaningful impact on the lives of those in need.

Elie Douna and Charbel Douna
Elie Douna and Charbel Douna at a SWAG Event

The Founders: Elie and Charbel Douna

Elie Douna, an entrepreneur and the director of the Douna Group, has been in the property development business for over 20 years. His passion for creating sustainable and innovative solutions in the property sector is well-known. 

However, his dedication extends beyond his professional life. Together with his wife, Emily, who is his rock and biggest supporter, Elie is committed to making a difference in their community.

Charbel Douna, Elie’s twin brother, shares this commitment. The brothers’ upbringing in Wollongong made them acutely aware of the struggles faced by many in their community. 

Their Christian faith, which emphasises love, compassion, and service to others, has been a significant influence in their lives. This faith drives their desire to help those who lack the basic necessities of life.

The Birth of SWAG Illawarra

Growing up in Wollongong, Elie and Charbel were no strangers to the challenges faced by their community. They saw people struggling to make ends meet, a reality that touched their hearts deeply. 

This ignited their desire to make a difference. They felt a strong calling to put their faith into action, leading to the creation of SWAG Illawarra.

SWAG Illawarra, which stands for “Supporting Wollongong and Greater Illawarra,” is a charity organisation with a mission to help the less fortunate. 

Launched by the Douna brothers, the charity operates every second Monday evening, providing meals to the homeless and those in need. 

The organization is based in Wollongong, an old industrial town that has experienced a downturn in opportunities, which has significantly impacted the local population.

The Mission and Operations of SWAG Illawarra

SWAG Illawarra’s mission is simple yet profound: to support those who need it most. The Douna brothers believe that every act of kindness, no matter how small, can make a big difference in someone’s life. Their faith continues to be their guiding light in this journey, reminding them of the importance of empathy and compassion.

SWAG Illawarra operates every second Monday evening, located just behind the main Wollongong Crown St Mall on Burelli Street. The atmosphere is filled with camaraderie and purpose as volunteers come together to ensure that no one goes hungry. This sense of community is palpable as people from all walks of life unite with a common goal: to support and uplift those in need.

The logistics of SWAG Illawarra are impressive. From food collection to distribution, every step is meticulously planned to maximise impact. Most of the food distributed by SWAG Illawarra is donated by local businesses, showcasing the community’s generosity and support. These donations include a variety of nutritious meals, ensuring that those in need receive not just food but wholesome sustenance.

Volunteers play a crucial role in the operations of SWAG Illawarra. They prepare and serve meals, engage with the community, and provide a warm and welcoming environment for all who attend. This volunteer effort is a testament to the power of collective action and the difference it can make in the lives of others.

The Douna brothers also focus on creating a dignified experience for those they serve. This means offering more than just a meal. It includes providing a safe space where individuals feel respected and valued and where they can share their stories and feel heard. This holistic approach helps build trust and fosters a sense of belonging.

SWAG Illawarra’s commitment to its mission is unwavering. The Douna brothers ensure they can reach more people and provide even greater support by continuously seeking ways to improve and expand their services. 

Their efforts demonstrate that with faith, compassion, and community support, it is possible to make a significant impact and create positive change.

The Impact of SWAG Illawarra

The impact of SWAG Illawarra’s work is evident as the evening winds down. The gratitude in the eyes of those who have been fed, the satisfaction among the volunteers, and the sense of community that has been fostered are all testaments to the difference this initiative is making. 

For Elie and Charbel, starting and running SWAG Illawarra has been a rewarding experience. It has taught them the value of community, the power of faith, and the impact of simple acts of kindness.

A Personal Journey of Faith and Compassion

Elie Douna’s journey as an entrepreneur has taught him that success is not just about financial gain. It’s about your impact, the lives you touch, and the legacy you leave behind. 

Through SWAG Illawarra, Elie and Charbel strive to build not just buildings but communities—places where people can thrive and grow.

Their Christian faith has significantly shaped their perspectives. The teachings of Jesus Christ, particularly his emphasis on love, compassion, and service to others, resonate deeply with them. 

They were taught to “love your neighbour as yourself” and felt a strong calling to put this teaching into action through SWAG Illawarra.

The Joy of Giving

Starting and running SWAG Illawarra has shown Elie and Charbel that when they reach out to help others, they are not just giving; they are also receiving. They receive the joy of seeing someone else’s life improve, the satisfaction of knowing they’ve made a difference, and the blessing of being able to serve others. 

This experience has reinforced their belief in the power of community and the importance of giving back.

The joy of giving extends beyond immediate impact. It’s about forming connections, sharing stories, and finding purpose in being part of something bigger. Each interaction with those they serve reminds Elie and Charbel of our shared humanity and inspires them to continue their mission. 

Volunteers often speak of the profound fulfilment they gain, which encourages even more community involvement.

Moreover, giving fosters a sense of gratitude, reminding the brothers to appreciate their own blessings and stay grounded in their values. They face challenges with a renewed sense of purpose, knowing their efforts enrich their own lives as well.

How Can You Help?

The Douna brothers encourage anyone who feels moved to help to support their cause. Every act of kindness counts, and together, we can make a difference. 

There are several ways you can contribute to SWAG Illawarra and help make a positive impact on the community:


One of the most valuable contributions you can make is your time. SWAG Illawarra relies on the dedication of volunteers to prepare and distribute meals, organise events, and provide companionship to those in need. Whether you can commit to a regular schedule or just a few hours every month, your time and effort are greatly appreciated.

Donating Food

Non-perishable food items, fresh produce, and cooked meals are always in high demand. Local businesses and individuals can support SWAG Illawarra by donating food, which will be used to prepare nutritious meals for the homeless and less fortunate. Every contribution, no matter how small, helps to fill plates and hearts with hope.

Financial Support

Monetary donations are essential for SWAG Illawarra’s ongoing operations. These funds are used to purchase food, supplies, and other necessities required to run the charity effectively. Even a small donation can make a significant difference in the lives of those in need.

Spreading Awareness

Raising awareness about SWAG Illawarra’s mission and activities is another way to support their cause. Follow their social media pages, share their posts, and talk to your friends and family about the charity. The more people know about SWAG Illawarra, the more support they can gather.

Organising Fundraisers

If you have the resources and the network, consider organising a fundraiser. This could be anything from a community BBQ to a charity auction. Fundraisers help raise money and bring the community together, highlighting the collective effort to support those in need.

Corporate Partnerships: 

Businesses can play a crucial role by partnering with SWAG Illawarra. Corporate sponsorships, donation drives, and employee volunteer programs are just a few ways companies can contribute. These partnerships help sustain the charity and demonstrate corporate social responsibility.

By engaging in any of these activities, you become part of a community dedicated to making a difference. Every act of kindness, whether big or small, helps SWAG Illawarra continue its mission of supporting the homeless and less fortunate in Wollongong. 

Together, we can build a stronger, more compassionate community.

SWAG Illawarra is more than just a charity; it’s a beacon of hope in the Wollongong community. Founded by Elie and Charbel Douna, the organisation is dedicated to feeding the homeless and less fortunate, providing them with the support they need. Guided by their Christian faith and a deep-seated desire to help others, the Douna brothers have created a lasting impact in their community.

Follow SWAG Illawarra’s Instagram page to learn more about its mission and find out how you can support it. Together, we can all do our part to make the world a better place, one act of kindness at a time.

Thank you for taking the time to read about SWAG Illawarra and Elie and Charbel Douna’s inspiring journey. 

Let’s all remember that every act of kindness counts, and together, we can make a significant difference in the lives of those in need.

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