Volunteer Stories

People volunteer for all sorts of reasons, and get all sorts of things out of the experience. Here we share some of the stories from some of the people who have been part of the TLC team.


Pasha arrived in the UK, seeking sanctuary from a dangerous situation in Iran. Witnessing Pasha’s journey from asylum seeker to refugee has been a very humbling experience.

Pasha began volunteering with TLC the first day he came into the cafe. Sharing his passion for cooking, and recipes from home, Pasha soon became a well loved member of the team.

His confidence in English grew the more he volunteered in the cafe, and made many friends, as well as bringing friends he made from college and the refugee community in Leeds.

Having recently been given refugee status, Pasha’s life can now begin to journey forwards again. He hopes to continue his studies that were unfortunately cut short in Iran, looking to complete his post graduate Psychology degree.



Maxine has lived in Leeds most of her life. She now lives by herself and sees the key to staying fit and active is by being around younger people, and swimming outdoors daily (yes, seriously!).

Volunteering has always been a part of Maxine’s life, and she got involved at TLC through knowing Anna and Pippa. She loves meeting new people and learning about their life stories. She values to cafe ethos of being a place for people to talk and listen..

Most often seen entering the cafe with a freshly baked cake, Maxine is North Leeds’ Mary Berry!


Paul is Russian and was a student in an English class in a room next door to the cafe. After a lesson, quite early on in the course, he asked if he could help out in the cafe. We willingly invited him to put on an apron and get to work. Each week after class, he would don the apron and cook traditional dishes as well as others that we taught him. Paul was an absolutely delightful member of the team and we were all sad to say goodbye when, after a few months, Paul said goodbye as he headed to Manchester to start university.

Back in touch on email, Paul wrote this account of his time with ToastLoveCoffee:

Hi, everyone! Let me just have a quick word about the cafe and how it has helped me over the course of this year. First of all, my name is Paul.I come from one of the most coldest country in the world-Russia.As I arrived at the UK, I felt homesick in the first place due to the fact that Leeds is a diverse city, lots of people from different countries each with their own traditions ,food and customs…it was a challenge. However, I happened on the TLC CAFE within some time and found this place very comfortable and friendly. As a matter of fact ,the cafe is a great place to make friends ,especially when you are new to the country as the staff and visitors are always welcome to give you a piece of advice and support you. I started volunteering there later on and, undoubtedly, it was a great experience of teamwork. I would recommend everyone to visit this place and tell your friends to bring more people.The bigger the cafe, the stronger we are as a community!


Janet writes:
“I have been grateful to ToastLoveCoffee and The Real Junk Food Project in many ways. It provides shelter from the storm when life is becoming challenging. I have met some lovely people whilst visiting the café.
My way of ‘giving back’ to the project was to deliver training to volunteers, provide home made jams and chutneys and donating excess from my allotment in the growing season. It’s a way to ensure local home grown food does not go to waste.
I always like the idea that people receiving these donations are encouraged and sustained, not knowing where the food came from, but knowing someone out there cares about them.
I witnessed young families coming to the café regularly to get access to affordable food that would have otherwise gone into landfill.”