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LAST UPDATED JUNE 23, 2023    |   5 MIN READ



Colombo Social is a trendy spot to enjoy some delicious Sri Lankan food and a drink or two. And although you can eat, drink, and enjoy, you may be tickled to find that you're supporting
more than just your local small business.


Photos of Colombo Social taken by Jungle House, June 2023.

From the outside, you and I might see the food scene and think about 'what's hot on the different top 10 lists,' or 'where's the newest New York bagel spot', or 'best kept local secret' (now ft. a queue around the block). For Shaun Christie-David, he saw the food scene as community, shared experiences and as a starting point from which to help others.

Shaun Christie-David started Colombo Social, a modern Sri Lankan restaurant in Enmore, and quite seriously puts the good in good food.

In November 2019, Colombo Social opened its doors to, well, everybody. Located in the lively company of Enmore's best food and drink, the new kid on the block was first and foremost a great restaurant. Slinging its modern take on classic Sri Lankan flavours, it introduced a whole new generation of Sydney diners to hunger for the sweet-spicy kick that makes your mouth water and your face wet.

In fact, you'd be forgiven for not realising that your mud crab kottu roti or goat pan roll (a delicious Sri Lankan Chiko Roll) were directly funding a social enterprise. The mission behind Colombo Social is to provide asylum seekers (originally from Sri Lanka but now open to all) with a place of training, support, and community. Those who have been displaced can find a pathway to ease the transition into the Australian workforce, providing a door through the otherwise towering, opaque wall that is the Australian immigration system.


Front door and interiors.
Photos of Colombo Social taken by Jungle House, June 2023.

But why care? Because it's cool to care, and Shaun Christie-David cares a whole lot more than you can imagine. A few months after opening with great success, the pandemic hit in 2020, and like the rest of us, they were told to pack it up and stay inside. The gas was switched off, chairs were stacked up, and the reality sank in that now nobody had a job. Many of the staff didn't have access to government support, and so Shaun used the money they had made in the few months since opening to keep them afloat and off the streets (author's note: this is severely downplaying the situation; it was genuinely extremely dire).

He didn't stop there though; Colombo Social was built on the idea of using food to help those in need, so despite the now total lockdown, they continued to do so. Donating first hundreds, then thousands of meals in a coordinated effort with partner organisations to make sure that if there were hungry people, they would be fed. This was the beginning of Plate It Forward - the scaled-up initiative of Colombo Social's original mission, where they provide now broad, industry-standard training to anyone facing barriers to entering the Australian workforce.



The very friendly team, the delicious food and the welcoming environment.
Photos of Colombo Social taken by Jungle House, June 2023.

Behind the business model is a motive of good - the desire to help empower vulnerable community members to break through the barriers that prevent them from social and economic participation. 

If balance is what we're all looking for, then Shaun has become the master. There's a notion that you can't be profitable and giving; that business and social enterprise must look and behave a certain way. Colombo Social is a balance of social enterprise and business success. It demonstrates that you can be motivated by a good cause and still have a flourishing company. You can drive positive change in the community, because you decide to. You can run a growing business, with the mission being to give back. Dare we say, you can have your cake and eat it too. Shaun applied his business experience to work on social enterprise start-ups with the intention to help, educate, employ, and empower vulnerable communities - because he can - and because if people like him didn't, who would?

The metric of their success isn't money; it's how many people they can help, and their driving force for scaling up and being successful is so that they can help more people all of the time. If you look at their website, you'll find proud (and growing) statistics shared; these are current as of June 2023:



Hours of training and employment provided to new Australian's looking to start a better life


For every guest who dines on 'Amma's banquet menu' we provide a meal to an asylum seeker in need.


Asylum Seekers Employed & Trained


Staff on the 7th June, 2023.
Photos of Colombo Social taken by Jungle House, June 2023.

Shaun's love language of food now reaches beyond his Sri Lankan heritage. Through Plate It Forward, the organisation has centralised and broadened their impact, adding three other venues: Kabul Social, Coyoacán Social, and Anything But Humble.

The outreach and training for asylum seekers and those facing barriers to entering the Australian workforce continues as Ability Social, and the two thousand odd meals they were donating through the Covid-19 lockdowns have grown into what they call the Social Meal.

We believe that if you're doing things for the right reasons, then people won't have to be convinced to support you. People can recognise someone who is giving and will want to give back. A story worth celebrating is something that reminds us that a city isn't comprised of numbers or lines on a graph; it's made of people, and that's who we need to remember to take care of.

Food for thought, courtesy of Shaun Christie-David.

Check out Colombo Social here.


The best staff working on the 7th June, 2023.
Photos of Colombo Social taken by Jungle House, June 2023.

WORDS:  Tom Gilligan
PHOTOS:  Jungle House Creative

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