Special cafe run by special people
Students with learning disabilities train to cook, serve food to public
At first glance, the Special Hands Café seems like any other commercial cafe in Metro Cebu.
It has a distinctly native, relaxed ambiance as seen in its white chairs and neatly arranged tables covered in brown and white fabrics and handicraft on display at a shelf on the side.
Customers are usually greeted by Yasmin, the cafe's 27-year-old waitress who flashes a sweet and confident smile as she hands them the daily menu.
“Your food will be served in 15 minutes. Please wait,” she would say.
And in his deep, yet friendly voice waiter Andrew takes and delivers the orders to the customers who are students of various schools, members of organizations and the parents of the cafe's staff. Training ground Yasmin has Down's Syndrome while Andrew has a developmental disability.
Both are among the more than 20 student staffers of Special Hands Cafe with Down's Syndrome, autism and intellectual disabilities.
The Special Hands Café at F. Ramos Street, Cebu City was set up by Stages Center Inc. and serves as a training ground for its students with special needs.
“We decided to open the café so our students have the venue for training. Here, we can teach them how to work like other normal people do,” Marie Macasero, head of Stages Center, Inc., said.
Macasero said the cafe isn't open on a regular basis.
“We always make sure that our students are ready to work in the café. We train them or do simulations before letting them do the actual job,” she said.
Each of the center's students are assigned to specific tasks, depending on their skills and talents. Eager students As a waitress, Yasmin is more inclined to dealing with people while Francis Niño's writing and math skills qualified him as cashier.
Francis sits inside a kiosk at the right side of the café.
“I love writing. Look! I wrote my complete name here,” Francis said, pointing to a pad of paper filled with scribblings of his name written in his clean penmanship.
Macasero said the students were quite eager to learn how to work in the cafe ever since it opened last August 17.
“We are proud to say that these students prepare the ingredients of all our food products and they cook them. They also prepare the drinks and everything we offer,” Macasero said. Routine The students are guided by the teachers to avoid mishaps.
The café offers sandwiches, pasta, cakes, chips and different kinds of beverages.
“Our earnings from the café goes to the students as well, for their projects, for the café’s maintenance and for the programs we have initiated for them,” Macasero said.
Macasero said the center received positive feedback from organizations and schools that dined in their café.
“It has even become a routine that after our customers eat, they ask for a group picture with the café staff, and we take that as a positive sign that our students did well,” she said. Contribution Three architecture students of the Cebu Institute of Techonology-University who visited the café once said they were inspired just by looking at the café staff.
“It just really feels good to see that these people, even if they have limitations, they are doing their best. I find it very touching,” said Mary Eunesse Montenegro who has a brother with special needs.
Montenegro and her two classmates are making a thesis study on the appropriate structure and building forms for people with special needs.
“After seeing the people here in Special Hands, we
are getting more ideas on what the outcome of our project would be. And we want this project to be our contribution to helping people with special needs,” Montenegro said.
A month after they started operations, Macasero said the center sees great potential from the students and looks forward to giving students more opportunities in taking bigger work responsibilities. Happy people The Stages Center, Inc., is coordinating with fastfood chains and restaurants for the possibility of hiring these students.
The center is also negotiating with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) for more intensive trainings for the students in food and beverages services.
Through Tesda, Macasero said the students can secure certificates that can help them land jobs in restaurants and similar establishments.
“It is really our goal to let these students go out and be part of the working population. We want others to see that even if these people have intellectual and physical limitations, they can actually do a good job, ” Macasero said.
When they're not working or studying, the cafe staff also visit malls and parks for their weekly community trainings. They also watch movies and go to museums.
On Fridays, the students make lanterns and other handicraft for dis- play in the café.
“Aside from their determination to finish the projects and activities we assign them to, we can see that they are happy people,” Macasero said.
With support from the center and their families, Yasmin, Andrew and Francis may see a bright future ahead of them.
‘ We are proud to say that these students prepare the ingredients of all our food products and they cook them. They also prepare the drinks and everything we offer. ’ — Marie Macasero, Stages Inc. chief
Special needs students work side by side with their teachers to serve cafe customers with simple fare they helped prepare and cook.
The Special Hands Cafe is not open to the public on a regular basis yet, but has drawn favorable response from its clientele of students and organizations.