Coffee shop in Vietnam becomes home for intellectually disabled children
VietNam, Feb 17: “I still can’t believe it is true. It’s like a dream,” Tam – an old woman said, her eyes shimmering with tears while recalling the very first time her grandson, Nguyen Nhat Trung Anh came out to work as a waiter at a coffee shop.
Tam became speechless trying to talk about her indescribable joy the first time she saw her grandson, suffering from Down’s syndrome, carry a tray of drinks to a customer and not forgetting to say “please have a drink, uncle.”
Just like other workmates who have intellectual disabilities such as Down’s syndrome and autism, Trung Anh was taught to communicate and practiced what he has learnt by paying waiter service at a coffee shop, “Humanity Coffee”, lying on a small corner at the end of Nhan Hoa street, Thanh Xuan district.
The coffee shop was opened in 2007 by Sao Mai - a centre for counselling, early detection and care for intellectual disabled children. Sao Mai creates opportunities for the children to access education and training in communication skills and to integrate into the community.
According to Do Thuy Lan, the centre’s Director, children afflicted with intellectual disability have very limited life and communications skills. Therefore, there is an urgent need for compassion and the sharing of responsibility among families and society so as to help these children’s lead normal lives, she said.
Here at “Humanity Coffee”, the children do things that they could not do without training: greeting customers, talking with them, waiting on tables, cleaning up the shop and making simple drinks.
Customers, some living far away from the place, come to the shop to enjoy coffee and talk with the children, which Lan said, is the best teaching method for those with mental disabilities.
Vu Chi Thanh – an officer at the Thanh Xuan people’s committee and also a regular visitor to the shop – said he treats the children like he would any others, and wants to be able to do more to help them become a meaningful part of the community.
Aside from the coffee shop, the Sao Mai centre is working on an aquatic farming project, which will help children with mental disabilities learn how to work with their hands and learn the value of labour.