This is a guest post by Shaun Christie-David, Founder at Colombo Social, a Sri Lankan restaurant and social enterprise.
Inclusivity isn’t selective. And often, it requires people — and businesses — to think, act, and live differently than they’re used to.
We are a social enterprise committed to tackling hunger and employment insecurity in Australia. And we’re doing that through the power of inclusivity. This comes from our belief of how we even the playing field.
Investing in your mission
In November 2019, we started Colombo Social. More than just a place to serve food, Colombo Social is a social enterprise restaurant, with the majority of our front of house staff being people seeking asylum. We have employed eight amazing individuals seeking asylum and have provided over 3,000 hours of employment and training.
And when COVID19 impacted our community, we rose to the challenge and launched Plate It Forward to provide employment and meals to communities hardest hit by food and employment shortages. Since April, we have donated close to 30,000 meals and counting and next month, we’re launching Ability Social, an employment and training school for people who haven’t had the same opportunities presented to most.
But Colombo Social and Plate It Forward are more than just food. They’re purposeful — to serve the needs of those most at risk and those most in need of inclusion.
Why access can either be a blocker or be a stepping stone
If someone wants to work, and you have a job that needs to be done, why aren’t you giving them a chance?
Our employees have come from various backgrounds — some are seeking asylum, some have overcome addiction, and others have been prevented from entering the workforce due to past experiences.
But they all have something in common: A desire to use their skills to strengthen the community.
And what we can provide is access to do that. Access to employment, so they have the money that they need to survive and support their families. Access to education, so they have skills to grow in their career or personal life. And access to that first shot which many people don't get.
Because of that access, they can build a new life.
If you can’t see it, you can’t be it
When we think about inclusivity and the change we want, we think about building a community of role models to perpetuate that mission. Because if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.
It’s done through care, hope, and having skilled people work with community members to facilitate their knowledge transfer to go back to the communities through the people we work with, when they go back to the community.
So that means employing people from areas of disadvantage, training them, and giving them opportunity. And then allowing them to be the catalysts of change in their community and serve the meals and cook for the communities.
That way, the ecosystem of kindness is coupled with hope that true enablement is achievable.
The tangible and intangible benefits
Whether someone is seeking asylum or overcoming other roadblocks, they’re facing internal and external challenges.
For many, their journey is isolating. They are often judged not on their depth of ability or their radiance and bright personality, but on the barriers that might be placed in their lives.
Through their job, they’re able not just to eradicate the barriers, but they also reduce their feelings of social isolation and live to the potential they have.
As we engage, enable, and up-skill these vulnerable community members, we’re showing the rest of the world who these people really are. We’re challenging and changing stereotypes by raising awareness of the issues facing these individuals.
It’s not done overnight and it’s not done alone. As we work to preserve the Indigenous culture and the rights and values of this community, we transform lives. For us, we’re doing it one meal at a time.