When I am not writing for this blog or for other endeavours, I am employed as the volunteer coordinator at the non for profit cafe ‘Now and Not Yet’ in Warrandyte. This role is a delight for me in so many ways. I am constantly amazed and humbled by the incredible people who wish to volunteer to support their community. Community, at least in this part of the world, is vibrant, alive and well. People are kind, generous and selfless and it is these interactions that give you hope for the world in which we live. Especially a world which at the moment seems to have lit itself on fire.
Volunteering is at the very core of caring for community. No one has made it through life without someone else’s help.
Let me tell you a story about one of our very special volunteers Lisa May Parker. Recently I asked Lisa to write down her story of becoming a volunteer at Now and Not Yet and between the two of us, some gesturing and a lot of texting we managed to get it all down. You see Lisa is deaf. When she joined our team she fitted in perfectly. She is smart, a quick learner and very efficient. It was us, the staff, who had the steep learning curve. Working in a busy kitchen cafe can be a little dangerous at times and people rely on vocal cues to let each other know what is going on. “Behind” “Hot Hot”, “Coming Through”.
How do you do this when the kitchen hand is deaf? Well you learn new ways of communication. I would like to commend the staff at the Cafe, especially Jack Lawrence who has done an outstanding job of making Lisa feel comfortable and included. For a young man he has shown wisdom and kindness beyond his years.
This is Lisa’s letter to us:
My name is Lisa Parker. I am 45 years old and live at Crowley Road Healsville. I am a deaf woman and have only been employed once before at a laundry in Tasmania. I found out about becoming a volunteer at Now and Not Yet cafe in Warrandyte through a friend. I started as a volunteer in the kitchen doing food preparation in October 2016, after attending a training and induction night with Lisa Hunt-Wotton and my interpreter Tamara.
For the first 5 months of shifts in the cafe I was accompanied by a deaf interpreter Tamara. Tamara came to work with me so everything could be explained to me in normal working hours. Tamara remained quite inconspicuous, not hovering around the workplace, but sitting out of the way, and just acted when needed. This helped the chef Jack and everyone else to understand what was required in this situation. I received government funding to be able to have Tamara and it is common practice when a deaf person starts in a new job.
It was a steep learning curve for me and for all the staff in the cafe but they were wonderful and made me feel very welcome. Everyone was so caring and helpful. At times some communication was difficult but everyone tried so hard to make me feel at ease and now it feels like home. When I first started, Jack the chef took photos of the menu items and laminated them and posted them around the kitchen so that I could easily see what was needed.
It wasn’t long until I moved to volunteering two days a week because I loved it so much.
In fact I love it so much and have gained so much confidence that I have enrolled for an apprenticeship. On July 15, 2017, I started my first day of employment at the cafe as ‘apprentice chef’.
I do my training at the cafe under Jack and a lady from the apprenticeship course comes to the cafe fortnightly to train and teach me.
This has been the most wonderful experience for me and I highly recommend the volunteer programme to others. I was never made to feel different or inadequate and have been supported and encouraged every step of the way.
Me and Lisa. Tamara, Lisa and Jack.
Can I just add that me – Lisa artist – not Lisa Chef – is wearing an apron covered in paint as I was working in the art studio that day and not in the cafe LOL……. Otherwise it looks kind of strange as the chefs are immaculate. Sorry Jack and Lisa.