I used to work for big corporate hospitality companies & sometimes you found yourself wondering you know? Where does the money go? Who does it go to? What is it being used for? & Why am I doing this? Who am I working so many hours for? Then one day I just had a moment. I want to know that what I am doing is actually going to a good place & I want to do something that will actually benefit someone in a good way & for someone that is in need of it. It happened to be that a couple of days after I had made this decision to change my career that it came up saying that a charity.. The Freedom Hub was looking for a manager to have come in & look after their cafe & event space. So it was something that I already have experience in & I was going to be able to utilise it for the greater good.. For someone that needs it. So coming in here I realised that all the profits were going to help modern day slavery. People who were affected by forced marriage forced labour sex trafficing human trafficing or organ trafficing. I guess it was a growing concern for me just not really knowing. So that is a moment that I had where I wanted to make a positive change. It was a very clear moment when I saw that there was a way to do that & quite easily. So I’ve been here for almost a year & a half now. I came in here as the customer experience manager to oversee the cafe & event space.. I am originally from Holland I left there when I was three years old & we moved as a family to Greece together. I lived there for ten years. So I did all my growing up as a child there. Cycling over to the beach & running around in the middle of the night. Then we moved over to Canada. I lived in Canada for seven years & then I moved back to Holland & then found a one way ticket to Australia. Ended up moving here by myself & found myself a job one day & managed to get a sponsorship & stayed & I’ve never looked back. I definitely experienced a lot more here & noticed a effect of what we are doing. We’re here very much to open up a conversation about what is happening. To stop modern day slavery within Australian borders. Meeting some of the survivors has been quite impactful. Helping them buy Opal cards helping them get sponsors for TAFE so that they can go to school. Helping them with conversation classes.. Seeing them grow as individuals. They want to talk to you.. Where as before when they start.. Sometimes they are quite shy & they don’t really know how to converse & be around people. So it is quite impactful seeing the difference over a year. All the profits from the cafe & all the profits from our events that all goes towards our survivor school. It is a school that is in an undisclosed location where it is a safe place for the survivors to go to where they can learn any skills needed. Sally Irwin started it about four years ago or five years ago. It started as a fundraiser & events & then the cafe came into play a couple of years ago. Everything we get here is ethically sourced. A lot of our other suppliers we’ve checked their supply chains to make sure. They even then they give us free stock for any events or things like that to help increase our profits as well. What makes us a bit different as well is that because we actually have a school where we take in people that have been effected by slavery. We are the only ones that are actually taking care of them on that aspect. We have people coming in they are looking around & they are like what is this? Ending modern day slavery? What’s it all about? & when I explain it they all have the same reaction like.. In Australia? Really? Because you hear about things like that happening over in places like Asia & in Europe. But you don’t think it actually happens in a country like Australia. Because we are so far away from it. I think that’s why in Australia they have come up with the term modern day slavery because it’s branches out to all the different areas. You know? A lot of the people think when you say slavery they think sex trafficing. But it is more than just that.. There is everything behind that. Like forced marriage forced labour.. That they don’t think about..
Michele is a passionate community worker & manager at the not for profit cafe The Freedom Hub in Waterloo.