SLICE of Life Australia, or SOLA as it is popularly known, offers employment opportunities and work experience within the Shoalhaven for local people with a disability.
The brainchild of Karen Anstiss, SOLA is a local not for profit charity that offers employment, training and work experience opportunities to people with a disability.
The business currently has 23 employees, 14 of whom have a disability.
SOLA delivers entirely off site catering within the Shoalhaven Area, catering to local businesses, individuals and community organisations.
The business runs the SOLA general store on Illaroo Road at North Nowra providing a selection of homemade cakes and slices, as well as the Reflections Cafe and Tea Room, that offers after funeral catering services, within the grounds of the Shoalhaven Memorial Gardens and Lawn Cemetery, at Worrigee.
There are also plans to establish a Sustainable Living Program at Terara, which will involve hands on experience with small livestock, growing and harvesting organic vegetables, which will be utilised by SOLA and its participants.
It also provides work experience opportunities for people with a disability at school, TAFE or with local support organisations.
SOLA has been running for seven years and in that time has had a close association with a number of local high schools, but none closer than Nowra High.
In fact six of the current or former employees have come through Nowra High.
“The school has really embraced what we are trying to achieve and offer people with a disability employment, be it either full or part time,” Mrs Anstiss said.
“Nowra High having had six employees, is almost a third of our entire workforce.”
As well as offering employment for disabled people, the business has also undertaken several school based traineeships.
Mrs Anstiss’ daughter Molly is employed part time, undertaking her Certificate III course in disabilities as well as studying public health at university; Bianca Smith, is also employed fulltime and undertaking her Certificate III in disabilities; Kira Webster started at the firm on work experience and undertook a diploma in disabilities and has since moved into management; while Bri Ross also works part time with the company and is now studying at the Wollongong University.
The business also sponsors awards at the Nowra High annual presentation evening for students with a disability, and also supports the Havenlee Special School, at North Nowra with a monthly student award.
While work on the Terara project has gone quiet, Mrs Anstiss said they have joined in a partnership with Waminda and the Flagstaff Group to try and obtain further funding to finish the project.
The first Nowra High students to take up the service were Toby McCall and Garry Barr, who undertook traineeships and Toby remains in employment today.
While Brett Ford will finish his traineeship in December and he is looking forward to keeping his association with the business.
SOLA founder makes a difference
KAREN Anstiss is an inspiration and doing great things for the Shoalhaven community according to Nowra High assistant principal Kate Forbes.
Mrs Forbes paid credit to Mrs Anstiss and the wonderful work she is doing in the Shoalhaven community.
“She has provided a source of employment for people with disabilities that hadn’t previously been there,” she said.
“She has provided traineeships for the three high schools in various ways for kids with special learning needs.
“She also employs a number of mainstream kids, who have chosen to have a career in disabilities.
“It is changing the culture and showing how people with disabilities can be part of main stream society.”