Here is a little recap for those who might be interested or for those who are new to what we do.
In 2012 I started thinking about creating a project that was of benefit to others. I was living in Melbourne, Australia at the time. I was running an espresso bar, The Final Step (TFS), which I had started a few years earlier. In December of that year I emailed my friend Valeria in Argentina and asked her if she wanted to join forces with me in a project that supported people with limited opportunities in their lives.
She was in. So with her help and that of a few other great friends, the ideas for how this project might look, started to flow, and a platform began to take shape.
In May 2013 our organisation, Social Opportunity Group (SOG), became a legal entity. In September we changed the structure of TFS so that we could direct all of the profits towards funding SOG projects. This type of business is called a social enterprise, which is a normal business, but with a positive social impact. In reality, SOG is a social enterprise. As well as using the profits from TFS, we also hold annual events and various fundraising activities that enable us to action a positive, social change.
In November I left TFS in the hands of my good friend, accountant, and SOG member, Jason. I moved to Argentina to team up with Valeria and start SOG’s first project, Food for Thought (F4T).
December 9, 2013, we opened the doors of this project. F4T is a program that provides nutritious food and creative educational activity for children between the ages of 5-12. It’s home is a small community in the Lanús province of Greater Buenos Aires, Argentina, called Monte Chingolo. From Monday to Friday this project provides healthy meals and education to 30 children.
We have two volunteer programs. One is run by another good friend, and SOG member, Leanne, in TFS. The volunteers help serve customers, clear and clean dishes, and maintain the happy, relaxed vibe in the café. We cannot understate the benefit that these volunteers provide for our organisation.
TFS functions not only as a fundraiser for SOG, but also acts as a centre of information. A customer can come into the café, read about F4T on the wall, talk to our staff, purchase a coffee, and know exactly where all of the profit from that transaction is going.
The other volunteer program is in F4T, where young international volunteers assist in the day-to-day running of this project. These volunteers become an integral part of F4T for up to a year at a time and play a very big role in supporting the children. What we never imagined to see was a huge, positive, self-developmental process that we have witnessed within all of our volunteers in Argentina.
Since we opened F4T we have fed over 8000 nutritious meals. Our interactive activities with the children include art, cooking, music, drama, yoga and games, to name a few. The physical, mental and emotional health of children is fundamental to our program. Two interdependent facets, “a healthy, balanced diet” paired with “creative, educational activity” form a holistic approach to a child’s integral development. In our view, there can’t be one without the other!
After functioning in a venue kindly donated to us by a local cooperative for almost two years, we are moving sites. This new site is very spacious and has a lot of potential for developing future projects. We will be sharing the space, and collaborating with, a local foundation called ‘ARCHE’.
The past three years have brought us a lot of learning and amazing experiences. We have only begun to scratch the surface, but we can now confidently say that we have a much better idea of what works and what is necessary to support this small community of Monte Chingolo. Through focussing on the physical, mental, and emotional health of children, we can move in the direction of making a positive sustainable, social change.
Our annual event will be held as always at Top Paddock café in Melbourne on November the 19th. Please click on the “events’ tab on this website to purchase tickets.