Over the last 8 years, AUT has supported Lifewise's annual event the Big Sleepout, which sees business and community leaders sleep rough for a night to experience life on the streets, and to raise funds to highlight homelessness.
This year, instead of the Big Sleepout, Lifewise is holding Merge and Dine, a high-end fundraising dinner that will take place at AUT on July 12. The funds raised will support Merge Café, on K' Road. The café, which has a mission to 'merge' communities, is run by Lifewise, connecting people to support services. It operates like any other café, but with a twist; it asks those who can afford to to pay a little more to help people who can't afford to buy food, enjoy a meal or drink.
Café Manager Manu Kahlon says food is only one aspect of the café. “The basic focus is helping people sleeping rough or who are isolated but also having a space which is a dignified environment, where people don’t feel they are being judged,” he said.
AUT has a long history of support for Merge Café through the School of Hospitality and Tourism. It has helped towards the kitchen fit out and worked with the team on menu development. The IT department has also been a consistent supporter providing computers and iPads for café users.
AUT will honour this partnership by holding Merge and Dine at AUT and will acknowledge the work that has been achieved, as well as the work that still needs to happen.
The dinner will be catered by Merge Café and served by the Merge community. AUT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism students will support the event through preparation, help in the kitchen and delivery of food in the training kitchens.
Lifewise CEO Moira Lawler says the partnership has been important to supporting the end of homelessness.
“AUT has been our strategic partner in many ways, be it research into homelessness, technological support for Merge Café, and being our venue partner for seven of the eight Lifewise Big Sleepouts,” she said.
“Partnering with AUT and having ongoing support at so many different levels helps Lifewise to be the innovative social development agency that we are today. It’s part of the reason why this year, instead of the Big Sleepout, we would like to invite and celebrate our supporters who have helped bring powerful ideas into life-changing reality.”
The event is an extension of the pay-it-forward movement and will feature a three-course meal with inspiring speakers, the Auckland Street Choir and a mix of like-minded people, some of whom have been through homelessness.
When: 12 July, 6.30pm
Where: City Campus
To secure a seat, you can RSVP online for a minimum donation of $200. Those wanting to make a night of it with friends or their team, can also reserve a table for 10 at the time of booking.
To support Merge in another way, you can pay it forward or purchase a Merge meal card at the cafe, that can be used by whoever needs it.
Merge Café website
Direct donations can also be made on the Lifewise website.