Cafe Serves Up Soup Kitchen Of Human Kindness
An Aussie cafe is serving up soup from its window to help its team of refugees and asylum seekers get through the pandemic.
Parliament on King is a tiny social enterprise cafe and bookstore that sits on a once (and *soon-to-be) bustling main road in Sydney's inner-west.
The cafe has been training and offering work to refugees and asylum seekers for about five years.
But owner Ravi Prasad said many of his staff are now struggling -- as well as his business.
"For these people who arrive in Australia, we know that over the course of their life in this country they'll go onto succeeding and contribute to the community. But the slope is much steeper," he told 10 daily.
"Right now it's even harder for these guys ... some of them are really struggling."
Prasad said he was at first excited to hear about the JobKeeper program that was offered to about six million Australians as part of the government's $130 billion coronavirus stimulus package.
But those who hold temporary visas are not eligible for the payment.
"We worked out we had about 14 staff who we thought were eligible, and we started to think we could survive this. But then we found out our refugee and asylum seeker team couldn't get it," Prasad said.
The only way we were going to recover from this was if we had a team intact, and we were going to have to pay them ourselves.
Prasad and his team decided to set up a temporary soup kitchen to keep their staff working. They called it 'the Soup of Human Kindness'.
For the last four weeks, a small team of volunteers have been serving up vegetarian or vegan soups on Friday and Saturday nights, using recipes from the chefs' countries of origin.
The soups are free to locals in need, including hospitality workers, international students, artists, musicians, the unemployed or homeless, while others are encouraged to pay what they can afford.
Prasad is also working with local groups and shelters to deliver soups to international students, the homeless and women and children escaping domestic violence.
"I was listening to the news and hearing about the rise in domestic violence, and shelters being overwhelmed. So I thought, let's just make food and give it away," he said.
"After talking to the different organisations, the story is consistent: these struggles have always been going on, they're now just being magnified."
Prasad launched a Facebook fundraiser to keep the initiative running until the cafe is able to return to normal trading.
At the time of writing, it has attracted almost $18,000 in donations. The funds will go towards food and running costs and paying their chefs.
Prasad said he has been overwhelmed by the response.
"We've had a lot of generous support over the years, but I think this has touched me the most," he said.
"I'm overwhelmed by the compassion and kindness of the community -- some who I know are struggling to put food on the table themselves."
Despite the struggles brought on by the pandemic, Prasad said it has been a "poignant reminder" of what really matters.
"You can paint the world as being a harsh, hard place where everyone is after what they can get, where there are bad guys and bad actors. And with that fear comes isolation and withdrawal," he said.
"I really don't think that's the case. I think we're a lot better, a lot kinder than we think we are, and a lot more honest."
The cafe owner considers his soup kitchen a "small drop in the ocean" compared to the "real and great need facing the community".
But it's something he hopes he'll be able to keep up -- at least until the end of the year.
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