From steady customer to steady job

November 25, 2022

After spending most of this year looking for work, Gabe Beyrer found it, right on his doorstep in his favourite café.

Every Sunday for as long as he can remember Gabe has had lunch after church on Sundays at Terra Viva Café with his mum, Jenny. Now he works there too.

Gabe left Middleton Grange School in 2020 and spent last year with Project SEARCH in Christchurch on a workplace internship at Burwood Hospital. Earlier this year Choices NZ, an IHC company providing tailored disability services, started working to find Gabe a job.

Choices NZ Facilitator Joanna Hannah says she made the connection between Terra Viva Group Manager Sarah Dillon and Gabe without the café realising he had been a regular customer for years.

“We were ecstatic when we found out it was Gabe,” Sarah says. “As soon as we found out who he was we thought this is going to work.”

Gabe started at Terra Viva, a garden centre and café in Burnside, in October working 20 hours a week, Sunday to Thursday, on a Ministry of Social Development (MSD) Flexi-wage contract. That means his wages are subsidised by MSD for 36 weeks.

“He is based in our cold drink section, and he has been a huge help with clearing tables and washing glassware. Now he has progressed to making smoothies,” Sarah says.

There is scope for him to move into the kitchen and work in food preparation or in the garden centre. And Sarah says they have arranged a later start for Gabe on Sundays so he can still go to church and have lunch with Jenny.

Jenny Beyrer can’t remember exactly how long she has been going to Terra Viva with Gabe, but she can remember him being there in a push chair. “It is one of our happy places.”

“All my life, pretty much,” says Gabe. “I do have fries every Sunday. I buy myself lunch. Work is absolutely fun. I like the atmosphere. I like the people. I get to have some good conversations with them.”

He says he might work in the garden centre later but for now he is just thinking about the café, “washing glasses, making juices and smoothies”.

Gabe’s wages will go towards a more independent future for himself. “I am saving up for trying to move out of home because I am going flatting soon.” His job still leaves him time to play football on Monday afternoons with the Sunshine Football Club and to learn German. His father, who died when Gabe was six, was German and one of Gabe’s older brothers lives in Berlin.

Caption: Gabe Beyrer is learning what it’s like to work in his favourite café.


This story was published in Strong Voices. The magazine is posted free to all IHC members. Read the full issue of Strong Voices or view more articles.