Giving Hope, Gaining Happiness


David Winderlich, Service Manage/Advocacy Campaigns Officer, Uniting Communities Eastern Services has written to tell us about the wonderful things which are happening out at their Beulah Park site (formerly known as UnitingCare Adelaide East).

The evidence is in - being kind makes you happy.1 This may be why we are experiencing an explosion of activity at Uniting Communities' Eastern Services, based at the Clayton Wesley Uniting Church.

For many years now Scots Church has helped Eastern Services to provide food and food vouchers, pay bills and support people in poverty in the eastern suburbs. Although that area is generally considered affluent, there are pockets of poverty and we see more than 1000 people every year for emergency relief.

We have just two part-time staff and about 30 regular volunteers in our emergency relief service. The volunteers are motivated by generosity and possibly, as the evidence would suggest, happiness. We all experience the fulfilment of helping others in different ways. For me, it's seeing the look of relief, the weight that seems to lift from the shoulders and the hope that grows in the eyes of someone who you are able to help.

Sometimes it is the human contact. People in poverty in Australia often live half a life. On $35 a day, the Newstart Allowance, they are limited as to where they can go and what they can do. They are more likely to suffer poor health and isolation.2 The steady replacement of face-to-face contact with online service means even incidental human contact is shrinking. To give just one example the Manager of Norwood Centrelink has stated that the number of front-line staff has been reduced from 80 to 8 over the last few years.

Sometimes it is because we can give a small taste of dignity. One woman cried recently when we were able to provide her with some shampoo: thanks to Burnside City Uniting Church for the regular donations of toiletries.

But many of us have also been keenly aware of the limitations in our service. Emergency relief is designed to be given in only the direst financial emergency, a few times a year. People come to us at their lowest ebb for support. Occasionally we are creative enough or lucky enough to help change a life, but usually the opportunities to address issues around longer-term poverty, unemployment and isolation are limited2.

That is why we are absolutely thrilled to have created a whole new way of engaging with people over the last year. Hope's Cafe started in March 2014 when Clayton Wesley Uniting Church generously agreed to let us use their hall on Fridays.The cafe operates as part of a partnership between Uniting Communities and the Clayton Wesley Uniting Church, known as The Spire Community.

We now have a vibrant cafe – Hope's Cafe – with a proper coffee machine and wonderful meals provided on a pay-what-you-can basis. Walk in on a Friday you will see 100 or more people enjoying lunch. There are English as a Second Language classes for the Persian and Korean communities that we regularly see, a Legal Clinic to help asylum seekers prepare for visa applications, Crafty Chatters Knitting, guitar lessons, a community garden and much more.

Hope's Cafe is full of asylum seekers - people who have lost everything, whose families have been torn apart, who have suffered in detention centres and whose future is uncertain, at best - but they bring abundant positive energy and happiness to the place.

On other days, the Domiciliary Care group have their regular lunch, the knitters knit, and once a fortnight the Anti-Poverty Network meets. Soon, hopefully, the Jesus Was a Refugee church-based advocacy group will meet there as well. In addition, we have regular barista training sessions to increase our own pool of cafe Baristas and provide our community members with transferable skills for employment.

Every couple of months we hold a fundraiser with Persian food and dancing.

About 10,000 people have passed through Hope's Cafe over the last year. And all of this is achieved through the dedication of our volunteers and members of the community. Asylum seekers and others in poverty are using the cafe as a base and a resource to make friends, exchange information and find jobs. People arrive looking stressed, afraid or angry; within a few weeks they are relaxed and smiling, and over months some of them take on pivotal roles in running the cafe.

All this activity is funded by the proceeds of food sales and the occasional fundraiser. On occasion a need appears that we do not have a way of funding. The trip to Warnambool, to participate in the launch of the Warnambool Hospital's Boat Building Project was one such need. It was made possible by a generous grant from your church and it has culminated in a trip to the Tasmanian Wooden Boat Festival for 9 asylum seekers. We will provide a detailed report of both events in the near future. The positive energy of Hope's Cafe continues to attract volunteers and supporters, and we are grateful to those who donate goods. Just recently a Yorke Peninsula farmer brought in a tonne of beans.

So now we have both practical assistance for people in financial crisis, and vibrant community development and community-building capacity. It is truly an exciting place to be and a privilege to be part of. Many of us believe we have only scratched the surface of what is possible.

We thank Scots church for their support to date and we look forward to your company into the future. Please drop in and see for yourself or follow us on our official Facebook site, The Spire Community, or Friends of Hope's Cafe.     David Winderlich

1. http://qreaterqood.berkeley.edu/article/item/kindness makes you happy and happiness makes you kind
2. http://www.madinamerica.com/2012/03/poverty-mental-illness-you-cant-have-one-without-the-other/
Images for this article provided by Hope’s Café: claytonwesley.org.au/community/hopes-cafe

© Scots Church Adelaide  Ph. 08 8223 1505