Time of survey: 11.10 am – 12.15 pm
Address: Blk 813 Yishun Ring Road #01-01 Singapore 760813
Not just a Café
I first learnt about Give n Take Café when I read an article published online by The New Paper. After learning more about the place on their Facebook page, I know I needed to see this place for myself. It is an initiative that advocates everything that I believe in — age-friendly workplaces, lifelong learning, senior volunteerism, intergenerational bonding — for the ageing community in Singapore. This cafe is part of the Give n Take campaign by SASCO Senior Citizens’ Home. Operating hours are from 9 am – 9 pm from Monday to Saturday. I decided to bring my parents to the place for breakfast on a Saturday morning.
There were some patrons in the café, but not as crowded as I thought it would be. Perhaps, it was still early. The place was well-lit, nicely decorated and clean. It’s amazing that the café has a library, a baking studio and an area for various workshops. There was an art lesson on that morning. We were there a little too early, and the bread were not yet delivered to the ca. I ordered 3 cups of coffees for us and started to do my documentation of the place.
The café is run by 2 senior volunteers. One of them is in-charge of taking orders, while the other assume the role of the barista. I took the opportunity to have a short interview with each of them. (p.s. I did the interviews in Cantonese as I overheard them speaking in that language. I wanted to make them feel more ease and the atmosphere less formal.)
Auntie Serene, aged 64, said that she has been working at the cafe for 1.5 years ever since it opened — previously she was primarily a housewife. She works 3 shifts a week and each shift is about 3 – 4 hours long. There are 3 shifts per day (9 am – 1.30 pm, 1.30 pm – 5.30 pm, 5.30 – 9 pm). Auntie Serene is very happy that working hours are short, which gave her the flexibility to continue performing her usual house chores and attending church services. The café hires seniors that are aged 55 and above. Auntie Serene is very happy with her job as she can spend her time meaningfully and at the same time meet new friends (colleagues and patrons). She told me that currently there are 2 Give n Take cafés, the other branch is at Compassvale. She feels there should be more of such places around Singapore for seniors who have pasted retirement age but wants to continue working.
Prior to working at the café, Auntie Chua, aged 62, runs a car servicing company with her husband. But when business started to decline, she had more time on hand, thus choosing to volunteer with SASCO. When asked about the remuneration, she mentioned that they are paid a token salary which helps to cover their transportation. She says the salary doesn’t matter as their ultimate rationale is to volunteer and help people in the community. On days that Auntie Chua is not working at the cafe, she keeps herself busy with housework or with her family business.
The breads are freshly baked (no preservatives) and delivered to the café on a daily basis. The breads are supplied by Asanoya, which a bakery that uses premium Japanese ingredients and they span 3 branches in Singapore. Seniors under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) and Pioneer Generation (PG) are given a discount of 20% for their meals.
The café also sells many art pieces and crafts made by seniors. All proceeds for the canvas paintings goes to the artist. This gives the seniors a certain degree of responsibility for their own living, which in turn, reaffirm their self-worth. The price of merchandise as low as $2, this gives more people a chance to do their part to support the organisation.
I really like this place. Although the café doesn’t serve a wide variety of food, the environment is comfortable and the staff are friendly. I think this place has great potential to be more popular. I feel that it is currently still underused as there wasn’t anyone in the library during my visit. The organisation could consider hosting more events there on Saturdays. Perhaps, a storytelling session or a jigsaw puzzle competition at the library would bring more families to the place. This would also create more work opportunities for seniors to manage the place.