I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Lighthouse Café (formerly Hamodava) run by Salvation Army. It was an eye-opening and fulfilling experience. The volunteering opportunity came about in conjunction with my University’s postgraduate association and we were expected to serve food, wash dishes and help to clean up afterwards.
For breakfast, I was primarily a waitress taking orders of toast, cereal, fruit, yoghurt, baked beans and hot beverages. In the afternoon, I was placed on the serving/table-cleaning team. However, there were so many orders during lunch, all the waiters, waitresses and the other person on my team did whatever we could to help.
Despite the fact that the food is free and most patrons of the café are from marginalised communities, the food is served in a way that does not diminish anyone; everyone is treated with respect and dignity. It was important to get everyone’s names while taking their orders in order to make them feel like honoured guests at a restaurant. The food was also quality nosh! I would not have minded getting some free food!
I noticed that there were some people at the café whom I thought didn’t need to be coming for free food but the SA people weren’t complaining and food was free-flowing so, who was I to complain? The aim of the cafe is to ‘build relationships… and developing a strong sense of belonging and acceptance for all’ so everyone was welcome.
At the end of the day, I was drained and just wanted to sit. When I got home, I had to sleep before getting more work done. I’ve famously said that I would not want to work as a waitress because of how demanding it is, and my day at the café proved my point. However, it is definitely something I’d like to do again. It was a very heartwarming experience and I enjoyed some of the conversations with the patrons. Someone even got to dance with one of them!
You can watch a YouTube video of what they do here, and I would definitely encourage everyone to volunteer.
Lighthouse Café is located at 69 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000.