Food for the soul at the Emmaus community’s café

24 Mar 2022

By Amanda Murthy

Five months since mental health advocates Emmaus Community launched the Mama Lili’s Goodwill café on 13 October 2021, with the vision to encourage its members to practise healthy eating and understand good nutrition, and Emmaus Community Founder Brother Al Archer shares with The Record, what inspired this space and how food impacts a “Healthy Body: Healthy Mind.”

A tablespread of food at the cafe
The new Mama Lili’s café operating since 13 October 2021, is a regular gathering spot for its’ members. Along with good food and conversation, the café also hosts “good eating” workshop with community chef James who shares their vision of “good food providing a pathway to a healthier life”. Photo: Supplied.

1. Where did the name of this café come from and what is the concept of this new gathering space?

Mama Lilli’s is named after Lily Archer who is the co-founder of Emmaus Community and my mother. Lily was the matriarch of Emmaus who lived in the community and loved the Community members as family. She passed away at Emmaus Community in 2016 and continues to be loved and missed by all.

The Mama Lili’s Goodwill café opened on 13 October 2021, was named after Emmaus Community’s co-founder and mother of Brother Al, Lili Archer who lived in the community, and loved the Community members as family. Photo: Supplied.

2. What has the reception been like since the opening of the café? What are some of the changes you have witnessed in terms of environment and bond between community members?

At the end of 2021, we opened Mama Lilli’s Goodwill café. This free café provides a space of hearth and healing for our community members and others in need. The response has been astounding to such a simple idea.

3. Why was it important to build this space?

We provide regular home cooked meals, good coffee, and a space to inspire healthy eating and an understanding. Plus, the added benefit of a relaxing space to enjoy the company of friends and shared meals. This is a space where we gather regularly and host various events. A recent event-celebration was celebrated at the Cafe for the 10th anniversary of our partners Coles and SecondBite.

We’ve also been running “good eating” workshops with James – our community chef, a former international chef and culinary olympian who shares our vision of “good food providing a pathway to a healthier life”.

The Emmaus Community launched a free café 13 October 2021, as a space for its’ members come together, eat healthy and have meaningful conversations. Photo: Supplied.

4. Besides the café, what are the other facilities or services available at Emmaus now?

Emmaus is constantly evolving to facilitate the ever-growing demand of people who need sanctuary. We try to live and love the best we can in these uncertain tumultuous times. Knowing the one certainty is that Christ is with us all the way. We are the midst of building two new facilities that will create 10 new vacancies for our brothers and sisters in the beginning of 2023.

5. What is the importance of staying connected in relation to mental health especially during a time of pandemic?

This café provides an avenue of hope. We can’t do much in this time of pandemic, but we can be instruments of Jesus and convey to others a semblance of joy and togetherness. I always ask our community to pray and give thanks for all graces given each day by our loving God.

Emmaus Community Founder Brother Al Archer speaks about the importance of having a “Healthy Body: Healthy Mind” in conjunction with the opening of the community’s new space, Mama Lili’s Goodwill café. Photo: Supplied.

6. What are some examples of the issues that the community members have been facing? How has Emmaus community been able to aid with those needs?

We, like the general population face the daily threat of lockdown and have been in lockdown twice. With 70 people you can imagine the adventures of lockdown. But we got through it twice and I imagine we will get through thrice. Its’ all about trying to have a sense of levity through the tougher times.