Café serves up work skills and hope

Shane Haynes once worked at a fast-food restaurant in Brisbane, cleaning tables and bathrooms and emptying bins.

Now he’s at the forefront of the food service food chain, working in a café with a difference in Boonah.

An initiative of the Carinity Fassifern Community Centre, Community Café 11 is a community-run eatery where unemployed young people and people with disability can learn hospitality skills.

The café workers learn barista, cookery and baking skills, customer service, money handling, time management, communication skills, problem solving and food safety.

“We do cooking – we make anything like cakes and pies and other things – and we serve the customers,” Shane says.

“Any time a customer comes in we put the food on the plate and take it out to them and get their cup of tea or coffee. We set up everything on the tables – knives and forks and serviettes.”

Carinity Fassifern Community Centre Community Development Coordinator Samantha Caves says the eatery provides on-the-job training and opportunities for people with a disability to feel empowered as they achieve their own personal goals.

Café workers, whose ages range from 15 to 44 years, have conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities and

complex mental health issues.

“Being part of an inclusive and supportive atmosphere at the café has fostered relationships with the greater community and broken down misconceptions about what people with disabilities can achieve if given the opportunity,” Samantha says.

Cherie Apostolatos, who oversees the running of the café, says some participants travel a 90-minute round trip each week to work in the eatery.

“We have a young lady whose mother found out about our café program. Nobody in Ipswich would give her a go because of her disability,” Cherie says.

“The results we’ve seen, just in participants’ personal growth, has been fantastic. Some you would have never seen in a crowd of people when we

started, let alone talk to people they didn’t know.

“It’s all about learning skills, not just work skills but life skills as well.”

With an eye to becoming a self-sufficient enterprise – vegetables grown in a garden on site are used as ingredients in café dishes – Community Café

11 also caters for meetings of local community groups.

Workers recently commenced their biggest catering job to date – feeding around 80 tradespeople working on the redevelopment of an aged care building in Boonah.

For the next year they will prepare and serve “smoko”, lunches and coffee to construction workers from a food van located on site.

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