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Community Café brews confidence, education and employment

25 November 2019 Media releases

Suncorp’s Community Café, inside its Discovery Store in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall, offers customers a new experience while creating education and career pathways one coffee at a time.

Launched in partnership with Wesley Mission and Darcy Street Project, the Suncorp Community Café is a training ground for people who have encountered barriers to education or employment.

The students, who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, receive financial literacy education and counselling as well as complete a Certificate II in Hospitality training.

Darcy Street Project manages the café and provides guidance to the Suncorp-sponsored hospitality students as they complete their work experience by serving free coffee to Suncorp customers and store visitors.

One of those students is 22-year-old Shahe Terzian who is starting his new life as a barista-in-training in Sydney’s CBD, after fleeing the war-torn streets of Syria.

Shahe was one of the first few students who completed work experience at Suncorp’s Community Café and formal hospitality training through Wesley Mission’s Vocational Institute.

Shahe was trained by John Cafferatta, founder of Darcy Street Project, which is a social enterprise coffee school that helps marginalised young people develop employment skills.

“Each year, a number of Australians from a diverse range of backgrounds face significant barriers in securing employment. This can lead to social isolation and disadvantage,” said Wesley Mission CEO, the Rev Keith V Garner AM.

“Education and experience help to build the confidence needed to successfully enter the workforce. The Suncorp Community Café is providing practical resources and support necessary for these students to achieve their goals.”

Shahe remembers his family’s escape from the bombed and besieged Syrian city of Aleppo. He describes a place where “guns were everywhere” and a life where there was “no safety at all”. Forced into the Syrian army, Shahe fled with his parents and brother to Lebanon where they lived for three years.

He now resides with his family in western Sydney and is grateful for the opportunity to learn skills at the Suncorp Community Café and through training provided by Wesley Mission.

Shahe was such a fantastic student that he now works for Darcy Street Project said he is grateful for the prospects provided to him. “Every new country provides new experiences and opportunities,” Shahe said.

“I have started my career here in Australia – I didn’t want to be given a hand out as I wanted to work. I love being able to provide a service to people and I can do that with Darcy Street Project. I have always had big dreams and my parents are proud of me which makes me happy.”

Shahe is thankful for the support of Suncorp, Wesley Mission and Darcy Street. “I have been down previously and I wanted to give everything back that I’ve been given,” said Shahe.

Darcy Street Project Founder, John Cafferatta said the café is able to give students invaluable workplace experience. 

“Darcy Street started as a passion project – we had a love for coffee and wanted to turn this shared passion into something meaningful,” Mr Cafferatta said.

“The Suncorp Community Café provides the perfect environment for people to learn and experience a real work environment – engaging with customers and Suncorp employees makes a big difference to their confidence and employment prospects."

"We have been running similar initiatives for a few years and it’s amazing to see the transformation of a person’s self-worth from the time they start to when they graduate – they leave confident, independent and feeling positive about their future – they also each get to serve around 1,000 coffees each.” 

Suncorp Executive General Manager Consumer Banking, Chris Fleming, said the Café is a great example of what can be achieved when businesses and community organisations work together.

“We know financial wellbeing is essential to building resilient people and communities, and we want students to walk away from the program feeling confident to achieve their goals, professionally and financially.” 

The Community Café serves free coffee to Suncorp customers inside the Discovery Store located at 197 Pitt Street in Sydney and is open seven days a week.

Event: Suncorp Community Cafe Graduation Ceremony 

What: Graduation celebrating the achievements of participants who have completed their certification.
Where: Suncorp Discovery Store, 197 Pitt Street Mall, Sydney NSW 2000
When: 10 am, Tuesday 26 November 2019
Notable attendees: Wesley Mission CEO the Rev Keith V Garner AM, Chris Fleming - Executive General Manager Consumer Banking at Suncorp, The Hon. Scott Farlow MLC, John Cafferetta - Darcy Street Project
Contact: Amanda Bailey 0429 484 632 or amanda.bailey@wesleymission.org.au

Information about the Community Café Partnership

Over the last two years, 44 students from eight different countries and disadvantaged backgrounds have completed a part of or full Certificate II in Hospitality while receiving hands-on barista experience by making and serving coffee to customers at Suncorp’s Community Café in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall.

Launched in partnership with the Darcy Street Project and Wesley Mission, the program has enabled these students to serve more than 33,000 coffees and complete more than 860 hours of work experience. New students join the program every 3 months. 

Media enquiries:      

The CEO/Superintendent of Wesley Mission, the Rev Keith V Garner AM is available for interview.

Selected students who have successfully completed their studies will also be available for interview:

  • Originally from the war-torn streets of Syria, 22 year old Shahe Terzian was one of the sponsored students that graduated with a Certificate II in Hospitality training, after completing work experience and formal hospitality training at the Community Café.
  • Palestinian woman Enas Kasmieh will graduate on Tuesday and is hoping to become a mentor for at-risk Muslim women in western Sydney by starting a new course with Darcy Street Project. Enas, who is bilingual, is a big believer in educating people who are disadvantaged to boost their confidence and show them new career pathways which is exactly what she is hoping to achieve by launching her new course.

Please contact:
Amanda Bailey
Marketing Manager, Corporate
0429 484 632
amanda.bailey@wesleymission.org.au