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Soul City Roasters “Come Good” on Refugee Commitment

Have you been a job seeker before? Have you experienced a period where you couldn’t land a new job and felt that your quali cations were just not being acknowledged? “But what about all that experience I’ve had, surely that counts for something.....” 

Add to this a low level of con dence because you can’t speak the local language that you are trying to work amongst and the fact that you have faced some signi cant levels of trauma in recent years. Are you getting the picture? It’s tough, really tough, for refugees making Australia their new home. 

I have lived overseas for a time serving God with my family in Mongolia. I know what it’s like to be in a foreign place, with a foreign tongue, where things are done so di erently. Your confidence at the markets and shops is not what it used to be. You feel stupid a lot of the time. Even the basics are hard work, and really exhausting. 

This is why our refugee, asylum seeking friends need help settling into Australia.

The City of Salisbury, and the northern suburbs of Adelaide in general are home to a vast majority of this states refugees and recent migrants and this is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. 

This is well recognised and that is why there are many organisations in this area helping refugees settle and get the support they need. There is a spirit of unity in Salisbury around this cause which is very encouraging. At our recent Welcome Salisbury refugee week dinner, attended by some 200 people, we had about 10 different local organisations represented, all of whom are seeking to help our refugee friends, and for this I am very thankful. 

Their needs are great. Settling a family into a new country is very difficult and much help is needed, especially in the area of employment. 

One of the challenges in finding employment is that most of the time your qualifications from your home country are not recognised and nor is your experience, and so finding a skilled job is almost out of the question. Then you hear through a friend that there is a cash job available on some farm or the like that doesn’t require much language skill. That is very tempting to take as its an easy job to get, but taking a cash job is not good for you for a few reasons. For one, unless you are going to be diligent in declaring that income for tax purposes, which itself requires a level of language competency, then you are acting illegally. Secondly, in terms of applying for future visas, it is greatly beneficial to be on the tax system and showing that you are earning a legitimate wage and integrating well. 

And thirdly, one of the biggest difficulties to getting a good job is that you don’t have any local references from previous employees. If you take a cash job, there is no way they are going to write you a reference, and you wouldn’t want to show it anyway. And so you remain an unknown quantity to a potential employer. 

As some of you will know from a previous article in the Guardian Advent 2016 issue (thanks Peter March for your support) I run a specialty coffee roasting business called Soul City Roaster’s (SCR) that has the goal of employing refugees. It is these insights and understanding about the difficulties of gaining employment that shaped our vision. 

One of the advantages I have is that I rub shoulders with refugees regularly in Salisbury whom I get to know in a social setting. I can hear their stories, learn of their families, and get to know what sort of work they did in their home countries. This is valuable information to me, because it builds a picture for employment. I can see what sort of skills they have, what experience they have, and envision how they may become integral in using those skills for the success of SCR. Their work and skills in their home country matter to me. And at SCR we are keen to help them as business growth permits. 

As Christians, we long to help people to thrive in life. And for refugees this means helping them with settling in, gaining employment, wellbeing of their family, and thriving emotionally. However, we also believe that truly thriving and living the life we were created to live means knowing Jesus as your Lord and saviour. We carry the burden and focus of wanting to help them be prepared for now and eternity. The most important way we can love our friends from overseas is by introducing them to Jesus. 

SCR has both these goals in mind. We want to show the love of Jesus by helping people with their physical needs and their spiritual needs. It makes sense that they go hand in hand. Just as Jesus cared for people by healing and forgiving, so we must care for all aspects of peoples lives.

Soul City Roaster’s is seeking to be shaped on a “Business as Mission” model. We want to help refugees through employment, which in turn will give them stability and purpose, which can be an antidote to some mental health issues. We want to take the opportunity that employment and relationships that follow bring to share Jesus and the good news of the gospel with them. We also want SCR to be a place of discipleship for those who know Jesus, a place where faith can be nurtured.

We are excited to announce that we have begun to ‘make good’ on our commitment to employ refugees. We have just taken on our first refugee employee for 4 hours per week. His name is Amir, he is married with one daughter and started work on the 4th July. After fleeing his home country a few years ago, Amir and his family are seeking to make a new life in Australia. I can’t say too much about him at this point for security reasons, but he is very glad to have his first official job. 

This is the SCR commitment, employing refugees, and it has been a while coming to reach this milestone as we had to wait until the business was at a certain point of stability and sales markers, but we have made it. Of course, this is only the beginning. We imagine 100 full time employees in the future working together in a great work space in Salisbury, to roast and produce delicious specialty coffee that is being shipped all over Australia and around the world. 

We recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to help with expansion through buying a new roaster and covering roastery setup costs. It has been wonderful to see how much support is out there and how many people are affirming of our vision. 

Let us keep dreaming about how we can love these friends fleeing very difficult circumstances. Let us keep being inspired to love like Jesus, bringing hope and help to their physical and spiritual needs. Let us keep making plans for “in their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9). We are to be the dreamers, make plans to help, and then stop and marvel at how the Lord establishes the steps. 

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7.

Let us show we are children of God through loving refugees, and caring for their physical and spiritual needs.