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Battleplans for 2018

We’re well into 2018 now and powering forwards with our mission to support the most disadvantaged members of our community.

This year we’re maintaining our tried and true programs we’ve been running for years such as the barista & hospitality training, acute crisis care and what we’re now calling TIP (the Transformative Intervention Program… which is working with the most disadvantaged members of the community suffering from chronic problems like addiction, crime, homelessness, crime, unemployability, etc).

Michael Seabrook has just started working with us full time this week.  Yesterday we submitted a grant application to get funds to purchase another cafe.  One of our BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is to open CFA2.  The Valley cafe is breaking even now and the only way to grow is to replicate.  It took a while to get settled after getting knocked around so intensely and unexpectedly last year.  The whole plan hasn’t changed much.

So what’s new.  I’ve been using my home for years now as a halfway house to help the guys we support.  I was hoping it would naturally outgrow this and develop.  We tried fundraising to help these guys but it seems people are reluctant to help men who are homeless/addicts/ex cons/etc.  I still think this is the most important thing we do.  It’s the most expensive cost to the government, it’s the most emotionally costly to the victims in our community, not many organisations want to tackle this and it’s something we’re good at.  Just we’ve got no money to do it…

The only way this can work sustainably long term is if we get a house.  Liberty Home.  Somewhere safe in a good community but strategically positioned.  I’ve discussed the idea with the police and it’d be necessary to work closely with them.  You’ve all heard me talk about for years how important relationships are and the idea of the “sevens” program.  Environment is such a massive factor for successful transformation.  You can introduce an addict to 7 healthy members of the community but if he’s going back to sleep at a crack house it’s just too easy to relapse.  It’s ended up just being a whole lot of work for me to manage it all-with little cash and support.

Moving forwards the most important factor to make this all work and facilitate all this is to employ a really skilled “community chaplain”.  Which is the same as our plan has been for years now.  To provide 7 day support (which is what is necessary) it is $87,442.44 p.a.  This gets us 1 full time worker and another part time worker.  The house itself is not expensive.  Last year to support one of the guys we registered with Centrelink so rent assistance could be paid straight to us for his housing.  We didn’t end up using it but it’s in place and an easy process.  It’d only cost about $10k per annum to cover the deficit.  We could possibly get 1 to 3 guys in one house at a time… maybe.  It would really depend on the individuals, their personalities and how far along they’ve developed and learned to manage their behaviours.  There’ll be a shortfall we’d need to cover.

This strategy is a proven, long game, comprehensive, sure fire way of seeing lives transformed.  With the home, the support workers and miscellaneous costs e.g. job training etc it’s $100k p.a.  We know we can do this because we’ve been doing it for years now.  We just need to source the funding somehow.  We really need corporate sponsorship to make this work.  If you or your company wants to contribute towards this specifically please get in touch.

I’ve stopped doing most of the direct support work personally and I’m not using my home as a halfway house anymore.  I’m going to personally continue working with only one of the ex drug dealers in the community.  Many of you would have heard Chris’ story of transformation.  We speak regularly all over Brisbane to share his story and he always gets the crowd crying.  Chris is a long way through his journey and on several levels I believe it’s important to continue to empower him.  I believe his life and story will help tens of thousands and so it’s worth every hour of my investment into him.

We’ve decided to pursue some traditional strategies to support our community.  Last December we announced the birth of Liberty Enterprises.  We are in the middle of transferring the charitable organisation over to that entity name and Cup From Above Cafe will be a social enterprise program of Liberty Enterprises Australia Limited.  In the next 90 days we plan to launch “Liberty Community Care” which, among other things, will be providing support for people with a disability.  We believe we can provide some exceptional community access support by linking in with our existing programs such as feeding the chickens with our Liberty Farm project or baking muffins at the cafe etc.  I’ve been working with people with a disability since 2002.  I personally love the work and this field but more than that I think as an organisation we can offer something really fresh, innovative in a really diverse but warm and friendly environment.  It’s a win for everyone.  So we’re going to pursue this.

More than that we’re looking at several fee for service options to link in with other organisations.  Whereby another organisation with funding for clients could pay our organisation to use the cafe/s, or provide a tailored coffee course for clients with complex needs.

That’s it for 2018.  If you want more details on any of this we have a 22 page 6310 word Strategic Plan to cover the next 10 years with all the details!  I’ll be putting that up on the website soon too.

For 5 and a half years we’ve been totally reliant on our members, a couple of businesses and some small churches throwing us a bit of cash here and there.  It’s simply miraculous we’ve lasted this long with no real core funding.  I can’t find the words to say how appreciative I am for all of our members and your continued support through all the difficulties we’ve been through.  The consistent heartbeat of your generosity and faith in our mission has sustained us the darkest seasons.  Thank you.

Writing this I was thinking about the first time I heard the name Cup From Above and it’s allusion to a brew that tasted heavenly.  I liked because it was quirky and catchy enough to simply be about great coffee.  But I also liked that it held within it a mystery.  Probably only someone like me would think of it.  But to the me the name also begged the question what does a cafe from above look like and what would it serve?  I’m curious to see how far this question will take us this year in 2018 and for the decade ahead.

Thanks for journeying with us another year.  Love you all.

-Adam

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Belonging, Encouragement, Christmas & Skjaldborg

We all want to belong.  We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  Something beautiful, innocent, sacrificial, new.  Something we contribute to that inexplicably and significantly benefits someone that could never in anyway benefit us.  This flies in the face of today’s hyper consumerist culture where the goal is accumulation and the capitalist way of life has a monopoly.  A culture that demands we all live exclusively to meet our individual needs before all else.  Despite our mercenary zeitgeist I believe it’s hardwired deep inside us to be a part of something greater.

Our Cup From Above Community filled with “diversity of adversity”

From the outset at Cup From Above we found people with a range of issues and barriers coming for assistance.  We just did what we could to help each one the best we could each day.  I think it’s better to look at it that they came to join and then in turn they helped one another.  If you’ve heard me speak you’ve probably heard me talk about community.  Community comes from a latin word “munio” which meant to “build up, to fortify and strengthen”.  In a healthy community I believe we are wired to connect and build each other up.  I’ve come to believe we actually need each other.  We need community.  It’s not just a nice accessory.  It’s like dieting and exercise.  If it’s not a part of your life then you will literally get sick.

In our community at Cup From Above we had a outrageously broad ‘diversity of adversity’.  I have come to believe this is a better way approach to community work.  We didn’t want to be a disability service or a mental health service or service for ex cons, which is a very white/western/modern approach.  That’s not how life works.  We just wanted to be a people service.  A connection service.  So people came here, who were disconnected, to connect.  When you have a mix of adversity there’s a natural blend of complimentary strengths and weaknesses which organically creates a culture of interconnected support.  The homeless guy looks at the person with a disability and is compelled to feel grateful for what he has and will automatically support him however he can.  The person with a disability working alongside a refugee or an ex con is compelled to feel grateful for the blessings they have and will naturally support them.  One individual is strong where the other is weak but together they are all strong.  This is the wild, messy and yet beautiful culture we’ve had here at Cup From Above over the years.

As you can imagine though with so many people struggling with such extreme issues it’s been difficult to always maintain a positive and therapeutic culture of support.  Us Aussies aren’t good at communicating feelings.  It’s definitely not natural in our culture to proactively encourage one another even in a healthy community let alone one filled with struggling individuals.  That same Latin word “munio” is also the same root for the word communication.  A community was always birthed through communication.  One day a couple of years ago a young member of our team with a disability was being a encouraged by another member of the team but misconstrued it as an insult, burst into tears and ran away.  The misunderstanding was explained easily enough and the drama was reconciled within hours but this event led me to question our culture.  We needed some way of regularly communicating encouragement to each other that was authentic and simple…

Scene from Gladiator where they form interlocking shields and Russell says “If we stay together we survive. Come together. Lock your Shields, stay as one”

That night I was randomly reading an article on ancient military tactics.  I learned that the Greek army was made up of ordinary citizens known as “Hoplites”.  They each had a set of weapons and armour including a shield known as the “Aspis”.  Going into battle they had a structured formation which they had practised before hand called the “phalanx”.  The aspis shield was designed to cover 2/3 of the soldiers body and 1/3 of the soldier to his left.  As they formed together they would create a formidable interlocking wall which was nearly impenetrable.  The historian who authored the article made a point of highlighting the courage and determination necessary to maintain the wall in the heat of battle and noted as long as they held the interconnected shields they were safe together.  This strategy of interlocking shields was independently developed by armies all over the planet including the vikings who called their version of a phalanx the “Skjaldborg”.

We don’t engage in combat like that these days but it got me thinking how any of this could relate to us today.  In ancient times your community was everything.  When you went to battle you went together and they literally had your back or you were dead.  We don’t have to defend ourselves from attacking marauders or neighbouring states today.  But we do have real enemies like crystal meth, job interviews, divorces, exams, car accidents and other tragedies.  There are still real threats that we all have to face.  We shouldn’t be facing these battles alone.  Our ancestors who fought alone died alone. The ones who survived are those who fought together side by side in the Skjaldborg.  There’s something we can learn from this.

Christmas Party Skjaldborg 2017

The next day at Cup From Above we began a ritual that we call “Skjaldborg”.  We picked that specific word just because it was cooler than hoplite or phalanx.  In the Skjaldborg your shield covered the soldier to your left.  The soldier to the left entrusted her life with the comrade to her right.  She was completely reliant to protect her in the battle just the same as her shield would protect the person to her left.  We look at this ancient military strategy as an analogy for how to live today.  In our ritual we each take a turn to encourage the person to our left.  We say what we appreciate about them.  We point out great things we noticed they did that week.  Personal characteristics which make them great people to work with.  Skills they have developed.  Even unique idiosyncrasies that define them as an individual.  Anything worth mentioning to encourage and express gratitude for them as an individual.  The ritual means we purposefully and regularly create a time to build up, fortify and strengthen each and every one of us together.  If WHAT a community is really a group of people who are “built up, fortified and strengthened” together.  Then “Skjaldborg” is HOW we build community.  It’s a ritual we use at Cup From Above to create community and make sure everyone knows they belong.  After every encouragement we all call out skjaldborg and stamp our coffee cups repeatedly and loudly on the table like a pack of vikings.  It adds to the spirit of the occasion.

When a team member has completed their training as a barista and they’re going for that job.  They’re not going into that interview alone.  They have the full confidence of their fellow warriors in that interview room with them.  They know if they don’t get the job they will be supported afterwards.  More than that they are confident in their ability because they’ve trained hard for the role.  The constantly repeated words of encouragement from their comrades echoing in their heart.  They know they belong.  They want the job but they don’t need it to feel good about themselves.  When life brings about other tragedies they are better prepared but they know they can rely on the team to support them through the crisis.

Skaldborg is our little ritual here at Cup From Above.  It’s my favourite thing we do here and I personally really look forward to it each and every time.  I wanted to share this inside secret of ours with you all and of course you’re welcome to use it in your organisation if you’d like.  I also wanted to take this opportunity to say it’s coming up to Christmas which for most people is a great time of year to celebrate with your family and community.  I believe Christmas is just another type of Skjaldborg.  It’s another ritual built for the same purpose of building relationships in a community.  It’s not actually the date Jesus was born.  Most Christians will say it’s about celebrating the birth of Christ but I don’t think so.  But the ritual does celebrate what Jesus taught.  Whether you categorise him a myth, man, messenger, messiah or almighty I believe we all still celebrate Christmas today because of what Christmas does.  It brings us together and, for the most part, we are built up, fortified and strengthened by celebrating Christmas together.  More than that though Jesus was the one who said, “…But when you host a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind…” – Book of Luke Chapter 14.  For those of you who are well connected to a loving family and a good community it won’t be obvious but you will have some, probably consciously elusive until now, ritual that demonstrates and communicates that you and others belong.  Most rituals aren’t as obvious and deliberate as our Skjaldborg but you might have something more subtle and Australian like an annual cricket game, bon bons, Grandma’s roast chicken, beer n barbie.  If you think about it there’ll be something you and yours do.  I believe the true meaning of Christmas is more than just celebrating with those who we’re comfortable with.  Certainly if you belong to the Christian faith then Christmas is all about including people that are poor, marginalised and disconnected.  I think we all want to really belong and be part of something authentic and greater.  This is the purest way I’ve discovered so far to achieve this.  So much of charity today is relation-less, love-less disconnected donation of mere things.  Same as Christmas.  If you really want to give please open up your home and your community and include those who are disconnected.  Really communicate, really encourage, really connect.

I hope you all have a great Christmas this year.  I hope that you each have your very own skjaldborg and that you find yourself somewhere that you really belong.

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Cup From Above Christmas Care 17

Christmas is coming up quickly and we’re working hard so we can support the most struggling members of our community once again.  This year we’ll be better than ever.  We’ll be giving away free coffees from the cafe from 7am Christmas morning, we’ll be delivering hampers and visiting disconnected & disadvantaged members of our community and like last year we’ve got a chef putting on a banquet for the homeless and other members of our community doing it tough.  More than that this year we’ll be visiting the hospital and dropping off toys to the sick kids who are too unwell to be home with their families.  

To make it really great and connect with all the people who really need our support this Christmas we need your help.  Here’s how…

1.  Donate to our Christmas Care crowdfund here or directly to us with the hashtag #ccare17 via the bank details here.  We’ve raised $2500 but we need $8000 to cover all the costs or we’ll be short.

2.  Time!  We need people to volunteer in these days leading up to Christmas and on Christmas Day.  If you would like to do this please get in touch with our Christmas Care coordinator Holly via email at cupfromabove@gmail.com or join the facebook organising group here.

3.  Stuff.  If you would like to donate items for the hampers here’s a sample list of what we’ll be giving away…

Milk 1L Long Life, Pretzels, Fruit Mince Pies, Custard, Corn Chips, Salsa, Tim Tams, Christmas Pudding, Candy Canes, Tinned Fruit, Soup (Tin/Cuppa), French Bread Stick, Bottle of Soft Drink, Pasta, Pasta Sauce, Bon Bons.

You can drop these items to the cafe this week inside normal business hours.

4.  Coffee.  We’ll be giving away a bunch of coffees Christmas morning so if you would like to purchase some Christmas “Suspended Coffees” (like the old days) we’d hugely appreciate it! Here’s the link http://cupfromabove.com.au/product/suspendedcoffee/

Thanks again for all your support guys.  We couldn’t do what we do without your support.  We hope you all have a truly blessed Christmas this year!

 

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