5 min



The Two Wolves: Community Cantina, serving food for the soul

28 Feb 2019

People & Workplace

5 min



The Two Wolves Community Cantina is a hip Sydney inner city bar and restaurant. Volunteers and the Jesuits who inspire them, through a mission to drive positive social change, run the place and host a range of events. The eatery dishes up fresh and delicious Mexican food, and makes money to support disadvantaged communities in Sydney and overseas. The unique enterprise offers insights into getting the balance right when it comes to managing risks within a volunteer workplace. This means keeping staff dedicated to the project, and at the same time satisfying the tastes of patrons in a competitive hospitality industry.

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The Cantina volunteers come from various backgrounds, and many learn about the place while studying at university in central Sydney. With a dynamic and young patronage, the vibe is relaxed but enthusiastic. Staff are warm but also deeply engaged in their participation with an enterprise that forms part of what is now a growing social movement in The Cardoner Project.

“It doesn’t take long within the warm, vibrant space of The Two Wolves to see the positive change we volunteers are a part of; and to feel the sense of community which is carefully fostered. The like-minded individuals I met and became friends with shared with me a passion for social justice, and a sincere willingness to discuss meaningful issues affecting young people today.” 

— Kieran Dale, Volunteer (2015 - Current)

The restaurant dishes up family recipes that have travelled from countries around the world and back to the cantina kitchen. The menu is reasonably-priced and heavily Mexican-influenced; offering tacos, burritos, nachos, and burgers. 

There are some fiery taste sensations with Jalapeno Poppers, fried whole and stuffed with cheese and spices, and served with tomato salsa. Pope Francis Empanadas are a classic South American pastry filled with ground beef, and the Cantina’s signature dish of Agave & Chilli Glazed Wings has proved a favourite among diners and served with chipotle mayo. Daily eatery specials are always available.

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Since its opening in 2010, it has evolved into a dynamic space shared by people who are passionate about social justice and serving others. Many of the volunteers are students who will go on to travel abroad and work at a grassroots level among communities in which Jesuits work; helping disadvantaged and poor groups to build houses or develop English language skills among non-native English speaker in their host countries. 

Connecting with others through the Cantina is an important step forward for those who want to become active with the Jesuit Centre for Social Entrepreneurship (JCSE), an initiative that branched out from the Cardoner Project (and marvel of innovative thinking in its own right for its social entrepreneurship).

Founding Director, Father David Braithwaite, SJ, explained the importance of finding ways to make a positive impact on communities in need. 

“We want to expand the newest branch of The Cardoner Project, the Jesuit Centre for Social Entrepreneurship (JCSE). The Centre is to be The Cardoner Projectʼs hub for measuring impact, both abroad and at home. An impact report was developed by the JCSE and this will continue to be a way that we recognise the effectiveness of our work. Additionally, we want The Centre to become an incubator and accelerator of social enterprises, which operate in our partnering communities overseas.”

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The Two Wolves Cantina hosts a range of events and functions for weddings and parties, and social events such as poetry evenings and salsa dance classes. The close engagement of community with staff creates links and introductions; fostering a sense of belonging and working together for a purpose.

Father Braithwaite says that running any restaurant or business is a challenge, and The Cantina is no different. 

“Investing heavily in training and inductions for volunteers is critical to the sustainability and growth of the Cantina and has served the business well since 2010.”

Building a strong network and hub in which volunteers can learn safe practices and leadership skills is central to the progressive work of The Jesuits who are based in Sydney.

Leah Davies is CCI, Head of Workers’ Compensation Claims and she notes that within the hospitality industry there are common incidents associated with claims that include: handling of glass, cuts or burns through food preparation, lifting heavy objects, and slips and trips due to wet areas and poor lighting. 

“There are other hazards too,” she says. “People may become exposed to dangerous cleaning chemicals. The Cantina has identified that training its volunteers will keep them safe and because this restaurant has a culture of promoting leaderships and developing skills it’s more likely that these safe practises are going to be shared among the team and newcomers to the cause.” 

Father Braithwaite urges all organisations who rely on volunteers to reconsider the time and cost they devote to training and keeping them safe, not just as a duty of care but as a way of building resilience and leadership among young people who will care for society in the future.

CCI’s Leah Davies says it’s no accident that more young people are experiencing injury in the hospitality industry because of the age group of the workers it attracts.

“Safework SA has reported increasing numbers of young people harmed in workplaces because they aren’t aware of the hazards or safety procedures that can protect them. Working around loud music can create noise exposure that could be harmful. Young working people are generally fit and healthy, and it’s encouraging to know The Cantina takes the safety of their volunteers seriously but also fosters leadership and development.”

Father Braithwaite enjoys being among energetic and ideas-driven young people, and says The Cantina wouldn’t have the same character and passionate team without its volunteers.

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“Bringing the enthusiasm and ideas of youth together with the experience and teaching of the Jesuits has linked communities in ways that are difficult to measure,” he says. “But the impact is far-reaching, and virtually global these days.”

In general terms, volunteers are not covered under the Workers Compensation Act outside of state government agency, explains Leah Davies.

“There are other ways to support volunteers, though. Most employers have a volunteer policy. This is one way they can support volunteers in the event they’re injured in the workplace.”

Knowing what the training and induction options are is an important role of people who supervise volunteers at work, explains Father Braithwaite. 

“These days there are online safety courses that are accessible through Safework Australia or state government organisations. Being active in the training of volunteers is progressive, it doesn’t really stop because there is always a need to revise, reflect on what we can do better.”

Over tacos and tequila, The Two Wolves team continues to recruit enthusiasts for positive social change. Visiting the restaurant is more than a dining experience because it presents an opportunity for patrons to learn about fundraisers and concerts, and the unyielding urge of the Jesuits and their volunteers to help others.

About Fr David Braithwaite SJ.

Fr. David Braithwaite, SJ runs young-adult ministries for the Jesuits in Australia. He established a volunteering network for young people, both locally and overseas, which grew into The Cardoner Project. Fr David seeks to engage young people in a positive mission for the socially and economically disadvantaged, while integrating faith and reflective transformation. He is passionate about encouraging young people to have hope in a more just and better future.

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