Business and Innovation Courage and initiative

Change a life with a latte

Lauren Tennent and Matt Lamason outside the Naenae Shopping Centre .
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The most life-changing cups of barista-made coffee will soon be for sale in the Lower Hutt suburb of Naenae.

Thanks to a venture between a charitable trust and the Department of Corrections, women trained as baristas at Arohata Prison will help staff the Trade School Kitchen soon to open on a prominent site in the Naenae Shopping Centre.

The aim is to provide the women with self-respect and paid employment. It will be a stepping stone to work in the hospitality industry and help reduce the unbelievably high 48 percent recidivism rate in New Zealand.

“We really want these human stories of success,” says Matt Lamason, chair of the Trade School Industries Trust.

This is our version of trying to make a difference.”

He says the venture has the potential to be replicated elsewhere too.

The building that will house the café is at 17 Everest Avenue, at the entrance to Hillary Court and opposite the Naenae Olympic Pool.

Continuing on the outside

The trust was born out of Peoples Coffee which is owned by Matt.

Through Peoples Coffee, a group of volunteer baristas have been teaching their skills to women at the prison for more than two years.

Matt says it worked well and raised the question “How does this continue on to the outside?”

Two years ago Trade School Industries, a charitable trust, was formed to take the concept forward.

Trustees are top chef Martin Bosley (who created the Gate to Plate Wellington on a Plate fine dining experience at Rimutaka Prison), Alison Robinson (a chaplain at Rimutaka Prison), Shaun Anderson (who has a wealth of retail and operations expertise in the coffee industry) and Paul Soong (who brings digital marketing and business experience to the trust).

They began negotiations with Corrections for a contract and a year later received it, which meant the trust was able to employ one of the volunteer baristas, Lauren Tennent, fulltime as training and reintegration co-ordinator.

Lauren Tennent and Matt Lamason in the Naenae Shopping Centre building that will soon house the Trade School Kitchen.

Not only has Lauren trained baristas in the past but she has a degree in criminology and psychology.

A suitable site was sought. It needed to have reasonable rent, be close to where some of the women would live and have access to public transport.

The Everest Avenue site was chosen and leased.

Building sustainability

A Pledge Me campaign is currently running to raise $30,000 for the fitout which is the final stage of getting the kitchen up and running.

Other costs have been met by a mix of grant funding, long-term interest free loans and trust fundraising.

The trust plans to have the kitchen open for business by mid-August.

It will have a full kitchen. The menu will have an emphasis on delicious and healthy food and include breakfasts and lunches.

How the completed Trade School Kitchen will look. Artwork by Ben Lamason of Matter Architectural Visualisation Ltd.

The café area will seat 40 and look out onto Everest Avenue and the pool across the road.

Matt says they hope to attract custom from workers in the area, pool customers and businesspeople looking for a suitable place to meet clients.

He says the response from Hutt City Council staff has been one of excitement and strong support.

Lauren will continue training baristas at Arohata through an eight-week programme for no more than three women at a time. The trust aims to train 30 women every year with new and transferable skills.

The trust also believes in building leaders from within and will offer leadership roles for those who have graduated from the programme and want to assist in teaching others the skills they have learned.

Changing lives

Lauren says she has watched the women at Arohata grow in self-respect and self-worth through the barista training.

She would see a lot of self-doubt and sometimes failure at first, but through perseverance they would succeed and come to a place of being able to make a good coffee.

“And watch them grow throughout the programme.”

Participants ranged in age from 20 to 50 but most were late 20s to early 30s.

Lauren says the women love learning something they can use. Many have not been in paid employment recently and some have never worked.

One of the graduates of the barista course says that without such opportunities it would be too easy to fall back into a life of crime.

“Before I attended the barista course I was lacking in confidence and lacking in any basic skills which could prepare me for work upon my release … I have not worked for 10 years but I now feel ready to apply myself back into the workforce and to become a positive member of society once again.

Without opportunities like this it would be all too easy to fall back into a life of crime.

“I now feel confidence within myself and motivation which I’ve lacked for some years and look forward to a more pro-social life now because of this awesome opportunity I’ve been given.”

The café will begin with a mix of former Arohata women and other staff recruited through normal channels.

Pay will be above the minimum adult wage, Lauren says.

“We want them to be paid well.”

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For more information about the project:

Find out more about the Trade School Kitchen click here

Donate to the Trade School Kitchen at PledgeMe click here

To follow their progress on Facebook click here

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