From bombs to a Sydney barista: when coffee gives you a real taste of life

From bombs to a Sydney barista: when coffee gives you a real taste of life

A Sydney café is generating more than just a caffeine buzz, with a new initiative creating education and career pathways one coffee at a time.

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

Over three months, students complete formal training in hospitality and work experience, as well as access to financial literacy workshops which will make an invaluable difference to their confidence and financial wellbeing.

One recipient of the training is Shaha Terzain (pictured above) who remembers his family’s escape from the bombed and besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.

The softly spoken 21 year-old refugee talks of a place where “guns were everywhere” and a life where there was “no safety at all.” Forced into the Syrian army, Shaha, fled with his parents and brother to Lebanon where they have lived for the past 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 Vocational Institute (WVI).

Apart from the ‘hands on’ training, Shaha is one of eight students undertaking a Certificate II in Hospitality course. The WVI course will eventually see 32 disadvantaged people engaged in the program.  He said he was looking forward to the prospects provided to him.

“Every new country provides new experiences and opportunities,” Shaha said.

“I am looking for a career here in Australia, not a hand out. I want to work. I love to be able to provide a service to people. I have dreams. My parents are excited. I am happy for them.”

Shaha is thankful for the support of Suncorp, Wesley Mission and Darcy Street.

“I have been down and I want to give everything back I’ve been given,” he said.

Meeting the employment challenge

“Each year a number of Australians from diverse backgrounds struggle to access the know-how they need to secure employment,” Wesley Mission CEO the Rev Dr Keith Garner said.

“To meet this challenge the Suncorp Community Café is providing much-needed resources, support and experience so they can confidently pursue further education or entry to the workforce.”

The Café is located in the Suncorp Discovery Store on Pitt Street Mall, which Darcy Street Project Founder, John Cafferatta said would offer 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 will make 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 get to serve around 1,000 coffees.”

Suncorp Executive Manager Corporate Responsibility, Sara Parrott, 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 empowered to achieve their goals, professionally and financially.”


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