Our social enterprise café in Wangaratta is going from strength to strength, realising life-changing outcomes for young people with disability.
VMCH opened Where Is My Coffee? in December 2021. Our aim? To provide people with disability a place to gain vital work experience, build their confidence and independence, and help them find paid employment.
Six months on and a handful of trainees has grown to 13! Two of the original participants, Zach and Akasha, are now gearing up to start paid roles in local businesses.
“We’re helping them with resumes, cover letters and prepping for interviews,” says Café Team Leader Corneilius Scott. “Local businesses, Café PreVue and Wangaratta RSL, have expressed interest in taking some of our trainees on, which is fantastic.”
When she started in December, trainee Akasha – who experiences anxiety – at times struggled to interact with customers and was chaperoned to and from work by staff. But after months of experience in the café, and support from staff to navigate public transport, Akasha is now travelling to work independently, and loves chatting with customers.
“It’s really good here,” Akasha says. “I like learning new things, making coffee and prepping food. I have my RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) so I want to maybe work in a pub or somewhere. I’d like to start earning money and save up to buy something.”
The café has also become a community hub, hosting trivia nights and fundraisers for local sporting clubs and galleries. It has also just opened a ‘safe space’ from 3-5pm weekdays for local teens who may feel marginalised, providing them with a welcoming and inclusive place to hang out.
This month the café also gained its 12-month Social Traders certification! This means it’s now recognised nationally as a genuine social enterprise (existing specifically to make the world a better place).
Daniel Carter, VMCH General Manager Disability Services, says he’s thrilled with the progress of the café, building on VMCH’s existing disability support programs in the area.
“To have 13 trainees in just six months is incredible, even more so is the fact that a few of them are already on their way to finding paid employment. The levels of confidence we’ve witnessed among participants has been really encouraging – we know we’re on the right track,” Daniel says.
“I’d like to thank the local community for truly embracing and supporting us. Even Officeworks gave us a month of free printing to help out. Having the cafe run as a viable business will also hopefully set us up to replicate this concept in other locations where job skills opportunities for people with disabilities are needed.”
Daniel was also buoyed by a recent information night held by VMCH at the café, which saw around 40 people join to talk about future housing options for local people with disability.
“We want to build homes designed around people’s needs, not ask them to fit in with existing options. We look forward to working collaboratively with the community on this, and continuing to make a real difference to the lives of local people with disability.”