The much loved Koha Community Cafe has recently moved to the old senior citizens building at 25A Dammans road Warburton. We went along to the new space to enjoy a yummy and nutritious meal and to chat to the founder Suyin about how the project started and its journey to where it is today.
Getting Koha off the ground
In 2008 Suyin was studying Community Development and in one of the classes they had a guest speaker Shanaka Fernando founder of Lentil As Anything who shared his story of what he had achieved which blew Suyin away. This made her think why couldn’t Shanaka’s model also be used in an area such as Warburton. Over the next few years Suyin kept her vision alive and in the process she found a core group of people that believed in the project and stayed with her to make it happen.
The name for the project Koha came about when Suyin was describing her idea to a friend and she said that sounds like ‘Koha’ which is a maori word that translates to gift or donation which resonated with Suyin’s vision. She worked with council during the initial stages to secure a building to house Koha.
Finally in 2010 with funding from the local Community bank who took a risk with Koha and provided seed funding, Koha opened. The project was only planned to run for 6 months but is still going strong today over 9 years later. Suyin believes it is the core group of people who initially got behind her project that was the driving force behind its success today.
The initial funding paid for the building and the food but Koha was struggling to stay a float until the General Manager of Second Bite who has a connection to Warburton read about their struggle in the local paper. He contacted Suyin and offered help, which allowed them to continue to provide meals to those in the community who need them most. Still today Second Bite are the main suppliers of food to Koha which they are so grateful for.
The people of Koha
Koha has many from the local community helping out even teenagers from the local high school. Suyin was proud to tell us that Koha has even helped some of the volunteers get paid jobs from their work experience at Koha.
Koha is a charity and so they rely on volunteers, like Nina Hellicar, for help to run the place. They have one chef and 40 or so volunteers that help each week. Food donations from the community are always welcomed.
How you can support Koha
Thursday night dinner is served between 6-8pm and on Monday lunch is between 12-2pm. All meals are vegetarian. It is a three course meal with soup, main, dessert and tea and coffee provided. Payment is by donation and every cent donated towards the meals is used for the running of Koha. Food donations can also be dropped off every Wednesday between 10-12. Staples such as pasta, rice, lentil, chickpeas, tinned tomato’s and fresh vegetables are always appreciated.
The main way you can support Koha is to come down, enjoy a meal, have a chat and make a donation. They are a beautiful charity that help many people and families have a healthy meal when they could not afford it themselves. Koha provides a friendly and welcoming space and is a wonderful place to meet your friends and also make some new connections.