Lentil as Anything: Volunteering Abroad in Sydney

May 28, 2015 8:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Spring2015_From_Tommy_WinderlWords by Tommy Winderl, a University of Minnesota student who volunteered at Lentil as Anything while studying abroad in Sydney with CAPA International Education this Spring.

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There are many different ways to take advantage of a study abroad experience, and one way that I have chosen to do so is to volunteer at Lentil as Anything.

This organization was brought to my attention during one of the first weeks while in Sydney, when CAPA organized a food crawl in the Newtown neighborhood. Lentil as Anything was the first stop of three different places we would go that night.

What makes Lentil so unique is that it is a vegan restaurant that runs 100% on donations and volunteers. The goal of the not-for-profit organization is to provide a meal to anyone and everyone, regardless of their financial situation. The reasoning behind being vegan is so that no one is limited by the menu due to any cultural or dietary restrictions they may have.

Photo from the Lentil as Anything Facebook page

The menu is limited by the food available that day. It does not have any prices listed. Customers pay whatever they see fit to an anonymous box at the front of the restaurant, and if they can’t afford to pay then that is ok.

During our visit to Lentil with the CAPA group, we were informed about the different volunteer opportunities available and I filled out a form for more information. Shortly after, I was contacted by the Lentil volunteer coordinator and went in for a training session. The following week I had my first shift as a waiter. I had never had any previous experience working in a restaurant setting, and that was perfectly fine by them.

The staff was extremely friendly and grateful that I was there to help out, as were the rest of the volunteers, whose ages varied greatly, along with their countries of origin. One gentleman was around 65 and lived just up the street, and another girl around my age was from France. All of us were there for the same reason: to dedicate our time to assist those who were experiencing hardship in their lives.

Photo from the Lentil as Anything Facebook page

The six-hour shift flew by. The tables were always full and the line was out the door and down the street a majority of the time. When it was finally time to close, we all cleaned up the restaurant and sat down and had a cup of chai tea together, feeling happy about the service we just provided.

I got the chance to help the shift supervisor count the money; we raised over $2,000 in just one night! Although it may seem like a lot, an important thing that we were told to stress to the customers is that Lentil as Anything does operate as a restaurant, and therefore has the same operating costs as a regular restaurant. The money they raise must cover rent, utilities, and whatever materials are not donated to them.

The organization has been quite successful over the years and has expanded to new locations throughout Australia.

Volunteering in Sydney was a fun and exciting experience, providing a chance to meet people from all around the world while simultaneously helping those in need. I chose to volunteer at Lentil because I agree with the concept of the organization, that no one should go hungry and the idea to be vegan so no one is limited by cultural or dietary restrictions. Australia is a global city, home to many different cultures from around the world. Providing a meal where anyone can sit at the same table and share their story was truly an amazing experience and one that I hope to be able to do again.

Thanks Tommy!

Find out about the CAPA Sydney program


Topics: Sydney, Australia, Volunteering Abroad