Orange's Cafe Connect helping people with disability gain vital work and trade skills

CONNECT OVER COFFEE: Newcastle Permanent's Sarah Bartimote, barista Oregen Watts, cafe owner Emma Murphy and Graham Batten from Newcastle Permanent. Photo: DECLAN RURENGA 0421drcafe1

CONNECT OVER COFFEE: Newcastle Permanent's Sarah Bartimote, barista Oregen Watts, cafe owner Emma Murphy and Graham Batten from Newcastle Permanent. Photo: DECLAN RURENGA 0421drcafe1

With just a cup of coffee, you can help people with a disability learn work skills.

Six months on from Cafe Connect’s opening, LiveBetter Community Services (formerly CareWest) and Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation have reflected on the project.

The cafe, at 107 Prince Street, is partly staffed with LiveBetter’s transition to work trainees who learn trade and work skills.

One of those trainees is Oregen Watts, who said it was difficult to find work before he started the program.

Since starting the transition to work program, Mr Watts has become a skilled barista, greeting customers with a smile.

Once the program finishes, Mr Watts is looking forward to another job in a cafe.

LiveBetter’s communications manager Marc Bonney said there weren’t “many places that can boast you can support the community just by having a coffee”.

Mr Bonney credited Emma and Ben Murphy and the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation for sharing LiveBetter’s vision.

He said the next stage was to bring a commercial kitchen into operation to teach cooking skills so people with disability had a chance to secure work.

“Hospitality is one of the most vibrant industries in Orange. Employment has one of the biggest impacts on anyone’s life,” Mr Bonney said.

Cafe Connect’s owner Emma Murphy said “it was an opportunity for us to give back to the community and so far it’s been really rewarding”.

“I feel like hospitality is a really great industry that can provide opportunity, with all of the cafes in Orange, there’s a great chance for employment,” Mrs Murphy said.

The Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation kicked off the project with a $66,000 grant to fit out the cafe.

“It’s showing people, not only with a disability, but also the wider community that we can be really inclusive with how we engage with people, make sure that everyone is welcome and that they also have the opportunities that the rest of us take for granted,” the foundation’s executive officer Graham Batten said.

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