Showing seasonal workers the love
The Pasta Café started as a way to help seasonal snow workers, who often arrived before the first snow dump and before their first paycheck. A caring group of folk from the Wakatipu Presbyterian Church decided they wanted to do something to help these workers and 20 years later, they’re still sharing the love.
Pastor Ian Guy explains, “The Pasta Café was started to feed seasonal workers when times were a bit tough, but it was just as much to make sure they knew they were valued and welcome. There’s a long appreciation in Queenstown of how vital temporary, migrant workers are and often they're away from their loved ones. So, the Pasta Café is a home away from home, friendly company, home cooking, and a homely touch.”
A sense of community and belonging
Initially held in St Andrew's Church, these days the venue is St Margaret's Church. Frankton. Ian explains it's not just church groups that get involved in the Pasta Café. “Lots of people from the community help. There’s a real sense of community here, people who move to Queenstown are embraced very quickly, and it's lovely to see people from different backgrounds coming to stand side by side and work together. You’ll have millionaires doing dishes with their sleeves rolled up, next to someone who’s sleeping rough. That's good for any community.”
Over time the people coming to Queenstown’s Pasta Café changed. Ian says, “We still get ski workers, old friendships are reinforced, and new ones made, but COVID-19 changed our mindset when it came to the purpose of the Pasta Café. A lot of folk felt quite isolated during COVID and we realised we needed to provide further sense of community and belonging for people who live here.”
“One of the big changes in the last 10 years has been the number of Brazilians involved in the Pasta Café. Eight years ago, we started a special service for Brazilians in Portuguese because we could see more and more Brazilians building a life here. Our global community also includes Koreans, Chinese, Argentinians, and Chilean migrants. Another volunteer force is Youth with a Mission. They're a group of young people with energy, strength, and a lot of enthusiasm, and we need that for the Pasta Café.”
Volunteers at the Pasta Café
A safe place to share
Ian remembers his personal highlights from the Pasta Café. “Pasta Café is about enjoying being together. Often singing, storytelling, and laughter happen spontaneously. A couple of years ago a guy recognised the song someone was playing on the piano, he started singing, and before we knew it, everyone was singing along. That doesn't happen every time. But it's fun when it does.”
“We let our guests set the agenda when it comes to conversation. It’s a happy place, but a surprising number of people also want to share some heaviness in their life. I remember one year a man walked in and said, ‘I don't want a meal. I just want to sit for a while and talk.’ It turned out his sister was facing an operation the next day and he couldn't be there, so he wanted to connect with people. The door is always open for anyone to come in. This is a place where people can feel safe to pour out their burdens. In every society down the ages, people gather around food because it's a safe place to share.”
Seeking people to keep Queenstown’s Pasta Café tradition going
When you ask Ian about the future of Queenstown’s Pasta Café he smiles. “No way of knowing, but there will always be a need for something like this, whether we’re still doing it or somebody else steps up. I'd like to think in the future, there will be a few different groups doing something like this because it’s fantastic. It helps bring us all together.”
“The Pasta Café only keeps going because lots of people do lots of little things to make it happen. We never commit to next year. We want to, but we can’t guarantee it because it always depends on people wanting to do it. The Pasta Café is not about money, money helps pay for it, but if you don't have people with big hearts to do the work, bake the cakes, cook the food, and do the dishes, then money's not going to make a difference.”
To volunteer for the Pasta Café in 2023, message the group on Facebook or contact Ian at Wakatipu Presbyterian Church at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dates are to be confirmed, but the Pasta Café generally runs for four weeks from July to August. If you’d like to donate, you can pop some money in the Pasta Café pot over on their Givealittle page.