Cafe Y is situated within the grounds of the Project Youth complex, 34 Allison Crescent Menai. Next door to the Menai Marketplace. The cafe offers a range of meals for breakfast and lunch and has recently re-opened after the Covid19 restrictions were lifted. Not only does it serve Reformatory Caffene Lab Coffee it is a place that provides education, training and employment for young people faced with some of life’s challenges such as family dysfunction, domestic violence, drug, alcohol and mental health issues.
Many of these youth are often forced to deal with temporary displacement from their homes, overcoming trauma, homelessness and unemployment. Cafe Y helps young people to reengage at school or take other pathways of education including completing a Cert 2 in hospitality in conjunction with the Loftus TAFE. They do their practical hours in the Cafe and build the skills and confidence they need to move forward in their career and life.
Project Youth clients are supported by youth workers, volunteer mentors and community organisations like Club Menai, Sutherland Shire Council and in turn support other charities like the Dandelion Support Network who refurbish baby furniture like cots and car seats to be redistributed to families in need. They also take donations of cash, clothing and nappies that go towards ensuring families facing hardship provide a safe place for babies to sleep and travel. The Dandelion Support Network is hosting their annual High Tea at Doltone House on the 17th of October and this is how we can show you the depth of community connection.
Head of Training, education and employment, Karen already has her ticket to the High Tea and is also a member of Club Menai. During our chat she shared how Project Youth is grateful for the community support and the funding from IMB to run give back enterprises like Cafe Y. The programs at Project Youth are a platform for volunteers and they try to naturally match their youth clients with mentors, whether it’s a connection they make or based on similar interests.
Youth Worker Justin shared that the kids are referred by Family Services, the Police and places like Headspace in Miranda. Project Youth has three centres including Hurstville and Miranda and are open on Thursday and Friday nights for drop in. They have a basketball court and are just about to start a community garden.
The support that Project Youth provides has seen the lives of many teens transform. Natasha was displaced from her family home just before she started year 11 and lived in supported accomodation whilst she reengaged with school. At the beginning of Year 12, she transitioned into independent living in Cronulla and successfully completed her HSC. She has since started her hospitality certificate and was recently working at the Shangri la Hotel, in the city. Karen received the feedback from her manager who said ‘she changed the face of the front foyer with her bubbly personality and enthusiasm’. She has returned to Cafe Y as an employee since it reopened on the 1st July, and said she would not have been able to achieve anything without the support of Project Youth.
Karen also shared that this was just one of the reasons those young people often come back and volunteer their time to the programs, ‘because they know how it helped them through a difficult time.’ Karen is acutely aware of what these kids are going through and offers a listening ear and a kind heart to help them understand their true value in the community and the potential they have to create a worthwhile life.
“We know they are going to play up.’ Karen chuckles. “With our Label Y, they are not going to be the best employee but, hopefully they will be. We work closely with the employer to help them understand what these young people are dealing with and how they cope. So if they turn up late for work it might be that they had no where to sleep last night or they’re cold.”
The employers we have are amazing and supportive and are often the only adult mentorship they have in these kids life. We are truly grateful for them.’
Project Youth is participating in environmental projects with So Shire in August that will see them learning about and cleaning up our beaches. And Sarah-Jo also coordinates Plastic Free Sutherland Shire joined us in the conversation and was on location with helpful advice and solution about sustainability and recycling.
Cafe Y is currently accepting donations for their sustainability garden and welcome any donations of second hand goods that they can recycle with their Youth Housing Projects. Furniture, Clothing and house hold items help them and the young people they are helping.
Cafe Y helps hundreds of young people every year and have supported thousands of families since they started out as small group of thoughtful citizens who opened up the first shopfront on Beachpark Arcade, Cronulla back in 1992, under the name Eastern Area Service for Youth.
If you would like to volunteer, donate or help this worthwhile cause, visit www.projectyouth.org.au
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