For people living with disabilities certain aspects of life often taken for granted by others can be an overwhelming struggle, not least of which is the issue of employment.
Local business owners Brett and Vanessa Mitchell, from the CD Centre in Kings Meadows learned of this first hand when their then 16 year old son, who lives with a disability, tried to find work and was met with barries such as inexperience and not finding a workplace willing to give him a go.
Taking action to help others, the CD Centre is now also home to the ‘Café Next Door’, a cozy café that gives those with disabilities an opportunity to gain skills, confidence and experience to help them achieve their goals.
“It’s virtually like a place where we have people with additional needs come and it’s a practice to move out into the real world. So it’s teaching them job skills, it’s teaching them hygiene, turning up for work on time, having a designated break time, all the things that they need to apply when they move out into the big wide world to get a job” said Vanessa.
“At the moment we have 22 participants that come to us over a six-day period.”
Partnering with Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), their participants are able to gain a recognised qualification.
“We run courses throughout our program, barista courses, hospitality courses, food handling courses, so they gain certificates for doing that.”
“Their certificates are just as valid out in the world as what yours would be if you did the same course, so they’re on an equal playing field” She added.
Each shift usually lasts for 2-3 hours, and are done once per week, allowing for regularity and building a new routine. Vanessa also added that this allows participants time to process what they are learning, so as not to be overwhelmed.
In addition to making hot drinks, participants also prepare and serve a range of food options, including what are arguably the best scones in Launceston.
“It’s a homemade scone with our whipped cream and a bit of jam, participants whip the cream for us every morning, it’s warmed and served on a plate for $3.50.”
Among a cost of living crisis, the prices at Café Next Door are remarkably low, enticing locals to come by regularly.
“You’ll notice that our prices on our menus are quite cheap, that’s because our participants are involved in what we do so hopefully, you’re not paying $8 for a toasted sandwich, and they’ve accidentally done it wrong, or the presentation of it’s not the same as what you get round the street at an upmarket cafe.”
“We’re not here to make a fortune, we’re here to break even in our prices. We just want to support these guys”
Vanessa and Brett also added that it’s common for regular customers to learn when participants are rostered on, and plan their coffee meetings to coincide with their shifts as they get to know them more and build a rapport.
The team are also excited to have been announced as semi-finalists for two divisions they were nominated for in the Tasmanian Community Achievement Awards, and will be off to Hobart next month for the awards event.
To get involved to support the Café Next Door, Vanessa encouraged readers to come and see what they do.
“Sit down, engage with our participants. You know, give them a pat on the back when they deserve it. Self-esteem building, confidence building is one of the biggest things for our guys. As soon as there’s any bit of recognition their chests are puffed out and you know, they work 10 times harder.”
The Café is open 9am-3pm Monday to Friday, and 9.30am-2pm Saturdays and is located in the CD Centre at 16-18 Reuben Ct, Kings Meadows.