What makes your job worthwhile? #2

Masooda Petersen has been the Kitchen Manager at the Service Dining Rooms for over four years now, and leaves home just before 06h00 every day so she can get to work on time. She says she doesn’t ever want to be late because there are always hungry people waiting, and she doesn’t want to disappoint them.


What makes Masooda’s work worthwhile for her is that she loves cooking, and especially likes having to be creative with whatever ingredients are available on a particular day. “We don’t always know what kind of donations we are going to receive, so we have to be flexible. I like making something from nothing.”

She is responsible for three permanent staff and the volunteers who help in the kitchen. “One of the best things about my job now is that the Operations Manager [Karen] actually works with us, we feel we are all part of a team.” Karen herself told me that, when she had to go on leave recently to visit her elderly father in Johannesburg, she could relax about what might or might not be happening at SDR because she knew that she’d left things in good hands 🙂


Masooda makes great breyani. Ask me, I’ve had some! Now I just need the recipe…


What makes your job worthwhile?

Is a job just a job? Or is a job more than a “job” for some of us?

There are five permanent staff members at the Service Dining Rooms, and each one is going to take the opportunity to think about and express what it means to him or her to work for an NGO, and the SDR in particular.

I’m starting with Karen Cain, the Operations Manager since March 2017, because it was over coffee with her this afternoon that the idea of talking about what make’s one job meaningful could be both productive and interesting.

Karen blog post.jpg
Karen at her desk.

Karen has worked as a social worker for 24 years. With her new post at the Service Dining Rooms, she’s taken on a more managerial role (with all the fun additional administrative responsibilities that come with it!), and yet still finds the time to be involved with the daily serving of meals. She is very proud of the staff, and says it would be difficult to work as part of the team if each member didn’t work as hard as they do, putting effort and thought into preparing a nutritious meal for their many clients, every day.

‘There’s also the matter of helping people who are going through hard times – for example, not only do we offer coffee, rolls and a cooked meal, but there’s a proper and decent place for them to sit at a table to eat instead of on the pavement or under a tree. When it rains, they can come inside for shelter and warmth.”

Regina and Karen serving meals at lunchtime

Karen says that the SDR is also becoming known in Cape Town as a beacon of safety: when a woman was attacked on the street round the corner, she was brought to the SDR for help; when an abandoned baby was found in the centre of town, Captain January from the local police station brought her to Karen; a man looking for his long-lost brother calls in three or four times a week to see if he has turned up there; and when a young woman with her small child was kicked out of her home by her abusive husband, her friends took her to Karen, who ran her a hot bath, gave her fresh clothes and a meal, and helped arrange safe temporary accommodation. “It’s about helping people retain a sense of personal dignity, which is empowering [for them]. We also now have a (free) HIV testing and TB screening mobile service twice a week, and clients who make use of those services also receive a free meal.”

Does the job have any kind of negative or stressful impact on her life? “We open up at 7.00am and finish at 2.00pm, so even though it’s an early start the day is manageable and I still have time to attend to my own domestic and family matters. I do, all of us do, get tired because working with a huge number of people every day can be very draining. We have to find ways of doing things that work well for everyone, so there are often challenges.”

Next week I’ll be talking to Masooda Petersen, the Kitchen Manager.

Spick and span

A growing trend with restaurants is to allow the customers a view of the kitchen, either contained behind glass or as a more central feature. This is, after all, where all the hard work is done, and a clean well-organised kitchen goes a long way towards promoting the restaurant’s image.

While the Service Dining Rooms is not a restaurant, we’re still very proud of our kitchen, and we thought we’d kick off our new series of blog posts by inviting you to have a quick look behind the scenes.

Staff members Masooda, Regina and Nozuko are responsible for preparing, cooking and serving our meals, as well as the cleaning up afterwards.

Our kitchen equipment, including the cold room and the fire extinguishers, is serviced regularly and everything is kept in perfect working order.