By Victoria Stone-Meadows

A new community connectedness project has launched in Cranbourne with the introduction of the Cranbourne Women’s Friendship Cafe.
The cafe invited women of all ages, backgrounds, languages and education levels to come together and empower one another.
The newest cafe is one of nine in the South East region that allows women who may have previously been isolated through various life circumstances to come together and reconnect with their communities.
The cafe has been set up by Biftu Hawas who was once a refugee herself and wanted to give something back to the community that had given her an opportunity to thrive.
“I was given a chance to some to Australia and the opportunity to graduate high school and then further my education in community development,” she said.
“I was working in Moonee Valley as a youth worker when I started having family and I had to put my job aside for family commitments.”
Ms Hawas was a stay-at-home mum for about six years and found once she was ready to return to work, she had become disconnected from her community and workplace.
“It was very tough; there is no space for a woman in work, plus having my background as a refugee made things very difficult,” she said.
It was through volunteer work with the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition (VIRWC) that she found out about the women’s friendship cafe.
“After volunteering with them in Hampton Park for about five months and the program was finished and successful, I was given an opportunity again to work to set up on in Cranbourne.”
The Cranbourne Women’s Friendship Cafe has been operational for about three weeks and has women from all over participating and making connections.
Ms Hawas said the goal of the cafe was to allow women from all different backgrounds a chance to share knowledge, skills and empower one another in a friendly and welcoming environment.
“When you empower women it increases the social wellbeing for women and from there the wellbeing of kids and families and the whole community,” she said.
The cafe has also attracted the attention of Nicole Sekic from Narre Warren who is studying a bachelor of health science at Deakin University.
“Cranbourne is such a multicultural and diverse community so this cafe is not just directed at the refugee community but is for everyone,” she said.
“I have learned a lot from Biftu’s story; about where she has come from and how she wants to give back to the community.”
“It’s a huge thing to work alongside her and learn so much about how disconnected a migrant and refugee population is.”
The Cranbourne Women’s Friendship Cafe meets once a week on Wednesdays (expect school holidays) from 10am to noon at the St John’s Church on Childers Road.
To get involved just turn up or contact Biftu Hawas on 0402 526 718.

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