Differently-challenged café a hit in Varanasi

The cafe was opened on September 7

Varanasi: Varanasi’ first coffee shop managed by persons with mental or physical disabilities has started attracting sizable number of customers.

“There is great response from the public. We are getting some 50-70 customers on busy days,” Fr Saji Joseph, manager of the café, told Matters India on September 27.

The coffee shop named Café Ability was opened on September 7 at Orderly Bazaar, an upscale market in Hinduism’s holy city, to provide livelihood for the mentally and physically challenged and promote their inclusion in mainstream society through job-oriented training.

It also aims to work toward changing public perception about the differently-abled, says Fr Joseph, a member of the Indian Missionary Society and managing director of Ability Foundation that was started early this year to focus on those marginalized by society.

While inaugurating the café, Ranjit Singh, deputy commissioner of department for the disabled, said a coffee shop run by people in wheel chairs and crutches is unique in India.

Singh regretted that thousands of people with disabilities remain outside mainstream society as they have little access to healthcare, education, employment and social support.

Kiran, a Bachelor in Arts who works as a trainee in the cafe, says she was fortunate to know about Cafe Ability. “I want to make the physically challenged people aware that they can stand on their own if they are open to themselves,” she told Matters India.

Bhimraj, who suffers from cerebral palsy, sits at the cash counter in his wheel chair. He says public recognition has overwhelmed him.

Shivam Ohja and Ritu Patel, who also work in the café, say parents should not hide their differently-abled children but provide opportunities for them for their growth. “They can do wonders,” Patel told Matters India.

Ojha says finding jobs has become a Herculean task for the differently-abled. Misconceptions, physical barriers, lack of training and self-confidence prevent the vulnerable from participating in society. This leads them to depression and some opt for begging to secure their life, he adds

Fr. Joseph describes the café as “an innovative venture for the inclusion of differently-abled people for their self-reliance and main streaming.”

Cafe Ability as a social concept aims to reach to 1.5 million people in India. It provides training and employment for youngsters with disabilities. It also aims at creating at least 100 job placements for trainees in the local hospitality industry, he added.

Census 2001 has revealed that more than 21 million people in India suffered from disability in various forms.

Bishop Eugene Joseph of Varanasi applauded the café as a “great venture” that helps transformation and growth of the differently abled.

The interior design and ambience is akin to a five star hotel.

It provides quality coffee, confectionery, multi cuisine munches like Italian, Mexican, Lebanese, Chinese, Indian and international desserts.

The chief chef is Amit Kumar Srivastava from Allahabad, who has worked at Hotel International, Kolkata, and Radisson, Varanasi. He was awarded the best European cuisine chef. He says he finds happiness in training the differently-abled youth. “It is very difficult to teach them but once learned, they are excellent,” Srivastava told Matters India.

At present the café has 14 employees above eighteen years with qualification up to graduate level.

Commending the hospitality and service, Amit Srivastava, a customer, said “it is the first ever initiative in India where physically challenged and mentally retarded people are getting trained. I must visit it again.”

Another customer Ravinder praised the enterprise as “a very humanitarian initiative to help people who are physically handicapped.”

The feedback endorses the excellence of hospitality, service and savor.

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