Have you tried these Kolkata cafes with a cause?

From out-of-the-box themes to important social causes – cafes in Kolkata are setting new trends and examples every day. While good food and service remain the topmost priority for all, several cafes are going the extra mile by breaking stereotypes and paving the way for inclusivity in their own way. Recent times have seen multiple city cafes trying to break stereotypes by hiring specially-abled staff. With an aim to empower them and help them become financially independent, these cafes with a cause are truly making a difference. This Poila Boishakh, #DoSomethingNew and visit one of these cafes to spread festive cheer like never before.
‘Want to break the taboo related to HIV positive people’

Making an earnest effort to break the social taboo associated with HIV positive people, Ritama Ghosh, along with her father Kallol Ghosh, started Cafe Positive in 2018. What makes the cafe unique is that all its staff members have been affected by HIV. “My father has a rescue home where he has raised many HIV positive patients. With these kids turning into adults, we wanted to secure their future and make them independent. With the help of crowdfunding, we have now shifted to a new address, which has all the amenities of a modern café. Professional chefs are also coming forward to train our special employees now,” said Ritama. Sharing with us the milestone Café Positive has achieved in these four years, Ritama said, “For a cafe working entirely with HIV positive people and sustaining in such times, where there is so much competition, I think it is an achievement in itself.”

Cafe ICanFlyy (9)

‘Empowering special needs individuals, making society aware of their potential’

Colourful, bright and cosy, Café ICanFlyy’s customer service is taken care of by seven individuals battling issues such as down syndrome, ADHD and autism, apart from 13 regular team members. “We also host special needs customer service training programmes and provide employment opportunities at our café with a cause. The idea is to not only empower special needs individuals, but also to make society aware about their immense potential,” said founder Minu Budhia. High on positive vibes, this kids-friendly cafe also has a playing and activity zone. The cafe also aims to address the misconception that special needs individuals primarily belong to an underprivileged background. “Our special crew comprises members from middle and high-income groups. We measure our success by the impact we make on the lives of our students,” added co-founder Preeyam Budhia.

Hope Cafe (6)

‘Our main motto is to empower young, underprivileged people’

Part of a life skills training unit, the quaint Hope Cafe is run by an NGO and has a group of eight underprivileged men and women. Renu Singh, the cafe manager, said, “Our main motto is to empower young people from the underprivileged or economically backward background. We do not have any qualification restrictions, but every trainee must be 18 or above. We train eight trainees for six months and then provide them jobs by sending them to other cafes in town.”
What’s more? The cafe is run by only women, except for just one male helper in the kitchen. For Renu, the cafe’s biggest achievement is the placement of their trainees. “The fact that they are economically independent and can sustain themselves is an unmatched feeling,” she added.

‘Biggest achievement is making them financially independent’

Shuktara Cakes (7)

Run by a charitable trust, Shuktara Cakes is an online-only bakery where a team of specially abled employees whip up scrumptious cakes and cookies every day. It all started in 2013 when French restaurateur Alain Cojean and Paris-based executive pastry chef Fabien Rouillard decided to start the bakery and a patisserie training centre to provide vocational training to these specially abled youngsters and employ them. Bakery manager Somnath Sardar said, “All our employees have been with us since they were young. As they were growing up, we tried to think of ways to get them a job, make them independent. That’s when the French chef’s initiative to train these people and fund the bakery gave them a new lease of life.” The greatest achievement for them is that two of their physically challenged employees are now financially independent, married and have a family with kids. “They don’t live in the NGO home since they are financially independent now. This is definitely one of the biggest achievements for us,” added Somnath.

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