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Free coffee to free slaves

fundraising, Sydney

Written by Hsu-Ann Lee
Posted on 23 November 2017 under Recent posts, What others are doing.

Café Nate started as a way to get out of the sun and has become a way to get back into the community. Proprietors and Roseville residents Rachel and Chris Lafazanis are using quality coffee to invest in people locally – and globally.

Rachel and Chris are finding redemption from adversity in more than one way.

There’s their initiative to give away coffee for free for a whole day of business. In exchange, patrons were asked to make a gold coin donation to free modern-day slaves and victims of trafficking.

And then there’s their personal story, and the very décor at Café Nate.

The Cafe Nate team, with Rachel and Chris pictured together on the right.

Rachel’s heart for trapped women and trapped children meant that hearing about IJM's fight against cybersex trafficking in Cebu and Manila moved her to action.

After learning about IJM through her local church, St Andrew’s Anglican, Rachel did some research on IJM’s theory of change and quickly found “the legal side makes sense.”

IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of slavery and violence, bring perpetrators to justice, restore survivors and strengthen public justice systems in developing countries.

Rachel decided to use the café business to support IJM’s work.

Café Nate’s “Free Coffee Day” raised $1,000, with many patrons donating more than the suggested gold coin.

In addition to the impressive sum collected for IJM’s anti-slavery work, the fundraiser became a platform to raise awareness about the issue.

The latest figures from Walk Free Foundation, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration put the global figure of children, women and men in slavery at 40.3 million in 2016.

“A lot of people had no idea,” Rachel says. “It’s painful to talk about so a lot of people shy away from it … but we did [talk about it].”

The catalyst for the couple’s decision to open a café in Roseville is also painful to talk about: a cancer diagnosis.

Previously working in property maintenance, Chris needed to leave behind his outdoors job to protect his skin. Around the same time, the family-owned locale on Hill Street became vacant.

Between stripping the interior and opening the doors to their first customers there was much to be done to get Café Nate up and running.

Fortunately, both Rachel and Chris had previous experience in hospitality and business. She would manage the backend administration, relying on her background in financial planning, while he would harness his strengths to handle operations.

Rachel has also been able to explore her creative talents.

“We wanted the café to be Roseville style,” Rachel affirms. “Not Northern Beaches, not Inner West or Eastern Suburbs, but Roseville.”

Tapping into a spirit of multiculturalism and Old World charm, Café Nate’s style rescues the beauty of the British colonial era. The dark bamboo seating is environmentally-friendly and kid-friendly, and patrons have remarked that it reminds them of childhood days on the verandah. Antique prints from India and the Caribbean adorn the teal walls.

Other decorative items from Africa and India have been carefully curated to enhance rather than overwhelm what is purposefully a calm, relaxing space.

The emphasis is on “a quality offering at all levels,” says Rachel. This includes not only the décor, but everything from the coffee and food served, to the handpicked staff.

Café Nate’s coffee comes from Golden Cobra roasters, who source their beans directly from independent growers overseas. It’s a business model that means producers are paid a fair wage and that there is no compromise on bean quality.

To do justice to their top-notch beans, Rachel and Chris recruited expert barista Yada Wattana, who made the move from a busy CBD café. Yada was looking for an opportunity to slow down and at Café Nate she’s now able to enjoy the freedom of lovingly crafting cappuccinos.

Similarly, Rachel and Chris wanted restaurant-calibre fare, so they brought in chef Michael Hughes from Sydney’s fine dining scene. Michael can boast of preparing food for the prime minister, and under his guidance Café Nate’s kitchen now cures its own salmon and creates its own fruit sorbets and tea blends.

The Lafazanis’s have invested in the very best for their café because they see it as an investment in their community.

“Our family all live locally,” says Rachel. “We plan to be here a long time.”

Inspired by Rachel and Chris's story? Want to fundraise for IJM Australia? See more ideas and information here.

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Who is IJM?

International Justice Mission is a global organisation that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.

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