Hope’s in the nameThe recent collaboration between the Clayton Wesley Uniting Church and the Uniting Communities Eastern Services Office has seen them mobilize some important projects, which are slowly growing to service the wider community, but particularly new arrivals. Calling themselves ‘The Spire Community’ they’re responsible for erecting a sign on the church fence at the prominent corner at Portrush Road and The Parade reading ‘Jesus was a Refugee’, helping to kick start a campaign that’s garnered the attention of the greater public. Natalie Oliveri is the Community Development Worker for the Clayton Wesley Uniting Church and writes about their most recent development in the form of a community cafe. This project contains a formidable mix of community development, passionate volunteers and delicious coffee.
Volunteers? Check. Coffee machine? Check. Patrons? Check. Choosing a name for our new cafe? Tumultuous.
Bringing people together to get a cafe in the church hall up and running, was not really a hard job. Volunteers put their hands up to make soup, cake, set up, clean up, make coffee, manage the kitchen… but deciding on a name for the cafe – now there’s a challenge!
When you start a cafe that’s born out of tradition, necessity and the fact that we got a grant for a coffee machine from the Burnside City Council – you start running into a few dilemmas in finding a name. They all seem unrelated, right?
Number 1: Tradition. ‘Cafe Spire’ ran out of Hope Hall for a number of years and over time, the vigorous flame of our volunteers dwindled. People became less capable of facilitating it, mainly due to age and the demanding nature of running a commercial kitchen. Our new cafe is a testament to the old cafe and what our volunteers achieved with ‘Cafe Spire’ for approximately 8 years, applying much energy, determination and commitment.
Number 2: Necessity. Uniting Communities Eastern Services office manager, David Winderlich is no stranger to helping people in proactive ways. He began the Circle of Friends initiative back in the early 2000s to provide community support to those held previously in detention before arriving in Australia. He and others at the Clayton Wesley site, who have regular contact with people seeking social services, recognised a need for new arrivals to have somewhere to go to learn English and socialize with a wider community of people. Together with Paul Turley, Minister of the church, they have garnered the support to combine resources to try and improve the everyday lives of the marginalized in our community. Their idea is that a new café would be a platform for refugees and others to receive support in a friendly and welcoming environment.
Number 3: The Coffee Machine. Well this part is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s been the catalyst for the idea that our cafe should serve delicious coffee. And who better to make that coffee than people who want to learn? The coffee machine has been a useful tool to skill people up in coffee making so they can have more employment opportunities.
So in all of these reasons for having a cafe, what’s the common thread? Well… hope. Hope that we’re making a difference and hope that we can provide people with opportunities for a better life into the future. Thus, we’ve called it ‘Hope’s Café’.
Hope’s Café is starting out small, open only on Fridays from 10AM until 4PM with English classes for whoever turns up from 11AM. The entrance to the café is cleverly located through the Goodies Op Shop, inviting customers and other members of the public to join in too. Bev Watson, manager of Goodies takes on the role of maître d’ on Fridays, and bustles about making sure everything keeps ticking along. “If we can just help a few people, it’s all worth it,” she says, “we hope that this place can be somewhere people can come use our resources to look for a job, learn a valuable new skill, or where a mum can come for a coffee while her kids have a play.” Since early March this year, the café has attracted Goodies customers, local mums and kids, new arrivals and the generally curious.
The paint-chipped walls of Hope Hall are adorned with the regular church notices and posters calling for social justice alongside saris and tapestries to add to the atmosphere. Minister Paul Turley is ‘head barista’, but has trained up a couple more people so that he can take a break to chat with the customers. Members of the congregation and volunteers join in welcome the walk-ins. The café is based on a pay-what-you-can-afford system, to ensure everyone can enjoy a coffee, a piece of cake, some soup and a bread roll. Marisha, a regular volunteer and driving force of the cafe with a strong knowledge of Iranian culture, provides delicious cultural treats like Persian bread and pomegranate fruit so everyone feels at home. One-on-one English lessons are held around the room by our healthy cohort of volunteer teachers and a mixture of voices can be heard under the chuckle and swoosh of the coffee machine.
Both David Winderlich and Minister Paul Turley both see the project growing into something that provides support to the local community every day of the week. Minister Turley especially hopes that the church site and it’s aging congregation can get a breath of new life from the project as it attracts more people interested in proactive social justice activities. “Our hope is that this is eventually a fully functioning cafe that people can come to everyday and talk, dream up new ideas and make them happen,” he says.