Helping refugees and people seeking asylum could be as simple as buying a cup of coffee.

Caffeine obsessed Melbourne is now home to a totally new kind of cafe – Long Street Coffee. Long Street Coffee is a social enterprise that supports refugees and asylum seekers by offering training and employment in the hospitality industry. Owners Jane and Francois Marx came up with the idea for Long Street Coffee when they realised how hard it can be for young refugees to get their first job in Australia.

We spoke with Jane about her journey to creating this amazing social business:

To watch a HD version of this video, please click here

– Transcript –

Hello, I’m Jane Marx and I’m co-founder of Long Street Coffee.

What is Long Street Coffee?

Long Street Coffee is a social enterprise café and our purpose is to offer young refugees training and employment in the hospitality industry.

What sparked your idea?

My husband Francois and I decided to start Long Street, to s tart a social enterprise café because we had done a few years of volunteering with young people in the refugee community and we saw that basically they weren’t being offered the same opportunities as other young people who were born here. And we think that’s a real shame and it’s a waste and we would like to see young refugees reach their full potential and this is our idea to help them achieve that.

How did you make this idea come to life?

So basically funding was first and foremost our biggest obstacle. Neither Francois or myself really had any great connections that could provide us with the finances to get something like this off the ground.  And we wanted to do this independently, we’re not trading under the umbrella of a not-for-profit or something like that, where I suppose we could go the more traditional route of applying for grants and things like that. So it was quite difficult and I suppose it kind of happened in probably quite a strange way. I was reading my Mothers Women’s Weekly and I randomly entered a competition, the inaugural Women’s Weekly ‘Woman of the Future’ competition and I went through a series of stages of interviews and things like that and I eventually was a finalist in that and they awarded me basically a check for 10,000 dollars to get my idea off the ground and we put that money towards running two pop-up cafes at the Festival of Live Art and at St Jeromes Laneway Festival and we had  two young refugees with us on the day and we had people filming and taking photographs and from that we were basically able to take that to potential investers and say this is really what we want to do. It’s really difficult trying to communicate to somebody an idea, it’s much easier if you have visuals and if you have a proven track-record of having done it, I mean albeit for a really short period of time, for only two days, but that was enough for people to click and see oh okay this is what you’re trying to do.

What has been the most rewarding part?

The most rewarding thing for us so far has been to see how well the two young refugees who we had working with us did at the pop-ups that we had. It was for both of them, their first day of work in Australia. They arrived over two hours early for their shift to make sure they were there on time.

I think it pushed about like 42 degrees that day, so they were waiting outside for me to come and meet them at the festival for two hours before. One of our employees then stayed about five hours after the shift, to kind of see the job through and he worked through to about one o’clock in the morning despite his shift ending. So, it was really seeing that kind of work ethic that really reinforced, not that we needed, that what we are doing is really worthwhile and it’s the right thing to do and it’s the right thing to give somebody with that kind of work ethic the opportunity they deserve.

Advice for PPLL wanting to give back?

I would say, find something you’re passionate about and set yourself goals and don’t be frightened to put everything else aside and pursue what you want to do at all costs. I think particularly for young women out there, you will encounter a lot of people who want to tell you what you should and shouldn’t be doing. They’ll want to tell you what you can and you cannot achieve, and society will put certain pressures on you that might make the pursuit of, I suppose, achieving some sort of social good, seem like a really difficult thing. But if you believe in something and you’re willing to work really hard for it, you will be able to get there eventually, don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do.

You can visit Long Street at 45 Little Hoddle St in Richmond, Victoria. You can also follow them on Instagram and give them a big like on Facebook : )

But if you can’t make it down there, here are some other ways you can support refugees and people seeking asylum:

Donate money to the UNHCR. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees coordinates international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. They assist refugees in over 125 countries around the world.

Sign the petition to shut down detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island. The petition calls on the government to abide by Australia’s international legal and humanitarian obligations, and put an end to shameful policy and close the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres now.

Donate to The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, an organisation providing food, clothing and other essential items for asylum seekers and refugees living in Melbourne. Check out their website to find out what they need, if you can’t get down to the centre you can buy things online to be delivered straight to their door.

Video credits:

Directed & edited by Ally Oliver-Perham & Georgie Proud
Thanks to Jane Marx for sharing her story.
Intro credits by Room3 Video Production Studio , with thanks to Northcote High School students
Filmed by Breeana Dunbar

This video was made possible through a grant from the US Consulate General Melbourne. 

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