FEELGOOD WAYS TO GIVE BACK TO YOUR COMMUNITY
It isn’t always easy to look outwards when working in such a busy industry, however, bar professionals Fay Barreto (Goa, India) and Anna Sebastian (London, UK) have found that giving back to individuals within their communities has made a difference to their own lives, including their mental health and wellbeing, and that of their teams.
After traveling all across India and working in various bars, I came to the conclusion that we needed to build a strong community of women and LGBTQAI bartenders. Therefore, I decided to spend time recruiting and training as many people as I could.
An initiative, Mr. Bartender & The Crew, began with me teaching my friends who had recently lost jobs and livelihoods a creative life skill that has slowly turned into a movement of sorts. First, we were a team of five and now we have grown to a team of 16 trained bartenders.
Benevolence was never forced upon me, but it was always present as I grew up - my parents are very kind people who have always been involved in charity projects and therefore I’ve always been very aware of what even small actions can do.
When lockdown happened, I just had this feeling that it was my time to do something for others and when the world shut down, I found Under One Sky, a non-profit organization that set up an emergency response team to help the homeless when there were no other options.
REACHING OUT TO COMMUNITY & NEIGHBOURS
I started this initiative because I felt my community was not represented enough in the industry. So, we came up with a basic and advanced mixology project that taught people the origin of cocktails with a build up to Gin Culture – as almost 84% of India consumes gin.
Besides starting The Crew, we helped a slum dweller, by teaching her four kids and enrolling them in a school. A few friends and I started Banda Buggers Group, an online community for the people of Bandra, that exists in Bombay, Maharashtra.
The objective of the group was to help the people of Bandra with whatever we could. For example, I created a safe space at my house, where people from the neighbourhood who needed food came in, or people who found themselves out of work could connect with one another.
On top of this, the Bandra Buggers Group also:
- encouraged people to share their own kitchen menus
- helped musicians of Bandra create & perform online
- celebrated Pride month with the Bandra LGBTQAI community telling their stories, creating a social – cultural community that surpassed race, gender, colour, sexual orientation
Having members of the LGBTQAI come forward and understand that this is a safe space for learning and becoming the best version of themselves is what we in #TheCrew and I live for.
UOS was a team of volunteers that went out every night handing out food, drink, clothes, and toiletries each night of the week. We operated out of Punjab restaurant in Covent Garden that is owned by Amrit Maan, who decided to stay open and serve meals for us to take out.
We built these connections with people who for different reasons had ended up homeless, be it through heartbreak, mental breakdown, job loss, criminality or drug use.
The thing that hit home was the number of people we met that were from our hospitality industry that had been made homeless due to the lockdown and had either been made redundant or simply could no longer afford rent.
PERSONAL IMPACT ON WELLBEING
Giving a chance to the underprivileged, to people who feel like they can’t make it, to those who are not confident about themselves, gives me immense happiness as those are all things that I have struggled with in the past.
For instance, Lakshmi and Soniya (Slum Dwellers) in the village wanted to make a change and teaching them and getting them ready to study has helped to give them the strength and the confidence to change things.
There is more to life than being a cog in a wheel, it made me question and push the boundaries to do better and create a better environment in our community.
We need to not only be questioning things but following through with action that has an impact on our people and our community.
WIDER BENEFITS TO THE COMMUNITY
The main benefit was the awareness we created in the industry of just how close we can all be to homelessness and that no one is exempt.
As strange as it sounds, I had the most rewarding year ever – helping others has truly changed my outlook on everything. It’s a very emotional process especially if you are going out every day and meeting the same people.
We’re actually in the process of putting things together for the next stages of what we can do to raise awareness of this issue in hospitality which is exciting!
I have been training people for an entire year now and I plan to continue doing so. Blessed with the strongest team supporting me, I am able to reach out to more kids and get them enrolled in the local school, thereby educating their parents about the bar and how they can make a successful living.
TIPS FOR REACHING OUT TO OTHERS
If you want to reach out to someone from the community and help, start by helping the folks who really require it. This could be offering or making some extra food or even speaking to someone over social media/the phone and asking them how they are – helping them if they are going through tough times.
When you want to do something, you make it work and fit it around your schedule. This big myth that everyone is “too busy” is simply not true.
Everyone can do something but ask before doing it. Don't just assume that buying a meal deal is helpful, they might have had 10 brought for them that day, they might be vegetarian, they might not like something. Just because they are homeless or can’t cook for themselves, doesn’t mean they don’t have preferences or opinions.
People often feel scared to ask or to start a conversation but honestly working in a 5-star environment and working on your local streets is really not that much different – trust me!
PLEASE ADHERE TO LOCAL LAWS & GOVERNMENT GUIDELINES AT ALL TIMES WHEN REACHING OUT IN YOUR COMMUNITY.
Five Key Takeaways:
-Take some time to evaluate who needs the most help in your community
-No act of kindness is too small, a simple gesture can go a long way
-Think about the transferable skills you could use from hospitality to help others and vice versa
-Don’t be afraid to reach out beyond your social circle and comfort zone – you never know where it could take you
-We grow more when we work together – remember that your positive impact will have a chain reaction on others