1 June 2023
Volunteers Week 2023 Highlight: Heart of the Park Café
The café operates in Leigh Park, serving delicious coffee, cakes, breakfast, and lunch. We wanted to highlight this opportunity because it’s a great example of how volunteering helps the local community and the volunteers themselves.
We sat down with Heart Of The Park’s Kitchen & Park Play Supervisor, Clare, to get an insight into the cafe volunteering experience.
How do volunteers in the café help out, and what skills and roles do they do?
“Different volunteers come in wanting to try different things but what we try and start out with is getting them to learn how the café runs, how we work, how the food is made, how the drinks are made and obviously cleaning. We try and start volunteers out nice and easy, coming in and observing while helping out in the kitchen with small jobs. Then, we can move on to using the till, preparing food and drinks, and using the coffee machine. The coffee machine can be quite daunting but we have training in that, we also send our volunteers out on food hygiene courses.
How many hours can volunteers work per week in the café?
“The café is open Monday to Friday and volunteers come in anywhere from a few hours on a morning right up to people who come in every single day. it’s up to the volunteers to decide how much they want to do and for me to come to an agreement on what’s best for them. I have had volunteers who have become overwhelmed being in all day, so we’ve agreed they can cut down their hours.”
Is much experience needed for the role?
“I don’t think you need any experience really to come into the kitchen, having a positive attitude and being willing to learn is really important. People often come in and start on the dishes and cleaning the kitchen before they start doing more of what I call the fun stuff.”
Does the role help with confidence and well-being?
“Being a part of something is important to all our volunteers. Having a reason to go somewhere, meet with other people, interact with the public, and learn new skills quite often a real drive to come and volunteer.”
Clare additionally had this to say about joining the team as a volunteer: “Our volunteers are so highly valued and our café really is a fun & enjoyable environment to be a part of. Not only can you build on any skills and experience that you may already have, but we can also teach you so much, and you will meet some wonderful people along the journey.”
Volunteering is that perfect middle step between not working and employment. Opportunities like this are flexible, training provided, short or long-term, and set you up well for hospitality work.