Good Coffee, Good Food, Good Conversation.. and more!

Reflections by Natalie Tharraleos, our Volunteer and Outreach Co-ordinator:
This week really got me thinking about the power of a good, real and connected conversation. For me when they happen they feel like a gift, like they forge a kind of alchemy. You feel you’ve had a fulfilling meaningful experience.
One customer told me that coming into the cafe was often the only part of his day where he has contact with people. He said it lifts him out of his depression and loneliness and changes his whole day.
Always the conversations feel uplifting and special both way round – it’s a privilege to have the time and space, and pace within my work, to be able to truly listen to someone else’s life experiences. To be able to have eye contact with someone when you’re talking with them; a sense of community and connection that’s truly for everyone. no judgements.
A BBC crew came in this week (we’re going to be on ‘Inside Out’ on BBC1 on Monday 4 March!). The cameraman sipping his coffee and he said, This is really good coffee … Actually what is this – this is REALLY good … Actually I can honestly say this is the best cup of coffee I have ever had in my life!”
Many customers have told me that our cafe is exactly what Harehills needs. Looks like we’ll be having some visitors from further afield when word gets around as to how good our coffee actually is!
This week was the third week of our Knit and Natter drop in. It was magical when a British born Jamaican customer who told me how much he enjoyed watching another male customer learning to knit;  “This is just the sort of thing we need to do to survive – my grandma taught us all to knit as kids because we had to. It’s a great skill.”
And thinking about our volunteers. The volunteer team are incredible – working so hard to provide brilliant customer service, cook amazing food, turn the days donated food into something delicious and creative, quickly respond to requests and learn about different dietary needs, how to cater for a wide range of tastes, pay attention to all the multiple tasks from emptying the toilet bins to sweeping the floor to greeting customers.
Our volunteers give so much, and it’s wonderful to know that they take so much from being with us too; a sense of wellbeing, support and feeling like they’re contributing something worthwhile. A couple of moments to share from this week:
A volunteer and customer connected in conversation over their grief at recently losing a parent, and nursing the other through tough illnesses.
Another volunteer told me they wanted to volunteer at TLC because they  read about some of the aims and  it’s simply amazing to see that humanity still lives in some (“I just want to be part of something so beautiful.”)
Threaded throughout TLC; seeing opportunities for creativity to flourish, ideas to be welcomed and activated, and delicious food always on offer.
I’ve had jobs where I’ve looked at the clock and thought let it be near home time. In this one I think, “Oh no! How can it be that time already?! I’m not ready to finish yet!”
published by Anna Dyson
Founder and Director of ToastLoveCoffee. CEO of Dyson family, Roundhay (Leeds) branch which involves a huge array of skills impossible to imagine or articulate! Formerly, Jewish educator and community professional.


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