MILK Cafe; Learning with the Community

MILK is a social enterprise cafe, which works largely with female refugee and asylum seekers in Glasgow. The café seeks to “provide the opportunity for women to integrate more into their new communities through a variety of workshops including language classes, art classes and cookery demonstrations.” The café also “provides work placements for women who are interested in gaining experience of the hospitality industry,” the company aiming to  develop as a “valuable community resource”.  The cosy and sunny café serving delicious and freshly made food to the public provides a safe, and supportive environment for the women and families in the community, and created an “excellent” work placement and experience for intern Valeria.


thumbnail_IMG_6019In partnership with Insignare, Valeria Sirbu from Fátima in Portugal embarked on a nine week placement at the MILK café , during which she “ learnt to make various types of coffee, learnt to cook delicious cakes, learnt how to cook from the menu, and various other things.” For Valeria, “it was all new to me.” She also had contact with customers, “helping me to improve my English,” and to make friends with the locals. Despite the different background of Valeria and the other volunteers, she similarly “had a need for language development and skills learning; so in this way she fit very well into the MILK cafes’ ethos,” explained host employer Gabby Cluness. For Valeria, “I loved my internship. Every day I met new people, and learned something different each day.”

Co- owners of the MILK cafe and host employers Angela Ireland and Gabby Cluness praised Valeria and the internship as a whole, describing Valeria as “fantastic” and “an utter joy to work with. She has been constantly enthusiastic and charming, willing to learn and keen to try new things.” Working alongside the other volunteers, Valeria was “very helpful, and an asset to have in the cafe.” Furthermore by hosting Valeria, who worked longer hours than the other volunteers usually would, it enabled the host employers to think about their schedule differently. By taking lunch breaks and rests into greater consideration “it was actually great as we realized it is a nice way in which to have a chat and bond together as a team.”

thumbnail_IMG_6021Gabby and Angela’s support helped Valeria to “learn a lot in the cafe,” but also offered her further opportunities outside of the cafe. The work placement provided Valeria with the “opportunity to attend weekly 5pm English classes which are free to people who need to improve their English with a teacher to help.” Valeria was also able to to participate with art classes at the cafe, and with “a Friday night live music night for people who can sing or play instruments, or for those who just wanted to watch and enjoy.” Valeria also did “volunteer work preparing dinner in the church for poorer people.” For Valeria, “I can say that I have met all of my goals; I learned to cook, to relate with people, to be more humble, to have courage, to always try to solve a problem, and loved meeting people from different cultures and with a different cuisine.”

A successful placement for both intern and host employers, left both Valeria and Gabby reflecting fondly on the placement. Valeria concluded, “I am a happier person, and in these two months I have developed many new skills.” As the placement came to an end, Gabby expressed that “we were very lucky to have such a confident and able individual. She was great, and we really enjoyed having her here with us.