By Shine Salt
UNITY Student Journalist
Among the few café shops that give back to the community, or even have programs that empower and help individuals in need, is The Refuge in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Refuge first opened as a non-profit business in October 2013. Its mission is to provide support for other non-profits while impacting the local community. The café is a social enterprise with Catholic Charities, created to be fully sustainable. They don’t focus so much on federal and state funding, or private grants.
“It’s not uncommon for many of the refugees to come to the United States…specifically women, who have low self-esteem and a low outlook on who and what they are based upon the culture that they previously came from,” said John Strawn, the General Manager for The Refuge. “What Women Empower tries to do and their goal is to empower these young women to say, ‘You have work, you have value and now that you’re here you actually have the ability to help yourself and to control a certain amount of things that you didn’t have before.’
The Refuge Café works with Lutheran Social Services which manages Women Empowerment, selling handcrafted art made by the refugees. Seventy-five percent of the proceeds goes to the artist, while the other twenty-five percent is re-invested into the program. Another plan of action is to help refugees in foster care programs who have aged out of the system.
The café has implemented a newer initiative, through the MANA (Marines, Army, Navy, Airforce) House program, that helps veterans get back on their feet. Much like the refugees in the program, veterans are building their work experience.
“In regards to the veterans, it’s different because they have been in the workforce, but many of them have not been in the workforce for long, so we give them a little bit of job experience before they go out,” said Strawn. “We also do personality test to find out what works well for the veterans to issues.”
If interested in donating or volunteering with a non-profit program, Strawn suggests contacting the organization directly and asking what the program needs and how you can facilitate that. Another way to help communities is by supporting local businesses that utilize other smaller businesses.
The Refuge is located at 4727 N. 7th Ave.