WHEN Sanjay and Sunita Kumar opened their Indian restaurant in Curtin two years ago, they introduced Canberra’s first karma kitchen.
About three times a year they organise a no-price-tag dinner where diners can “pay as they wish” towards a charity or cause.
Opening the restaurant was a dream come true for the married couple, who started at the Westside Shipping Container Village before it was shut down and they moved to Curtin.
Inspired by an Indian man in America, six years ago, Sunita says they didn’t want to just serve quality and unique cuisines but they also wanted to give back to the community.
So when they opened Daana in its permanent home, they introduced the karma kitchen.
“It’s beautifully married to our core beliefs and our passions,” says Sunita, 45, of Kambah.
The charity nights usually consist of a three-course chef’s menu, where diners decide on the payment and Daana then donates a portion of the proceeds of the meals to the charity or cause being supported.
They’ve raised more than $10,000 for not-for-profits and charities such as Communities@Work, Curtin Primary School, RSPCA ACT, Hartley Lifecare, The Mill House Social Enterprise Accelerator and White Nile Women.
“The first two karma kitchens we chose and from then on the word spread and people were approaching us,” Sunita says.
“It just has to resonate with our core beliefs and that’s what it’s really about.
“It’s really about giving back to the community and this is our small way of giving back.”
The karma kitchens have also formed a community of volunteers who can give back, because, as Sunita says, it’s got to be sustainable so volunteers are an integral part.
“There are a lot of people in the community who rally together and get behind a cause,” she says.
Sunita describes the nights as fun and informal, where people can gather around at community tables and meet others who are passionate about a similar cause.
They’ve had a mix of payments and Sunita says most people are very generous, with the occasional person who pays $2.
“[But] we accept whatever they give us with gratitude,” she says.
The karma kitchen is really catching on, and Sunita says there’s already one booked in for March, but coming up even sooner is their karma kitchen for Mercy Ships, which they plan on cooking a mix of Indian coastal cuisines.
It’ll be held on Tuesday, September 25, where there will be two sittings; one at 6pm and another at 8pm.
On the night, Canberra nurse Danniele Hunter will speak about her time volunteering with Mercy Ships, which is a hospital ship that delivers free health-care services and aid to those without access in the developing world.
Danniele, 31, of Scullin, recently volunteered for two months in Cameroon, Africa, where she was confronted by people who had been suffering for a long time from medical conditions.
“A lot was simple things that if they were here in Australia they would have had surgery a long time ago.
“It was amazing seeing how excited people were coming on to the ships because they knew they were getting their surgery. [And then after], I haven’t seen happiness like that here.”
Fifty per cent of proceeds will go to Mercy Ships at the next karma kitchen on September 26. Bookings to 5105 1048 or daana.com.au