The Coffee Shrub launches first inclusive café

The Coffee Shrub | photo: Corporate Maldives

Male’, Maldives – The Coffee Shrub has launched the first ever inclusive café in Maldives with the purpose of creating a space that welcomes people with different levels of abilities.

The launching event of the inclusive café was held today afternoon at 2pm and was inaugurated by the Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Maldives, Akiko Fujii.

The Coffee Shrub was opened in Male’, the capital city of Maldives in March 2020 by three young entrepreneurs with the aim of serving specialty coffee and delicious homemade pastries. The team of Coffee Shrub had the unique opportunity of partnering with Team ‘Silent Coffee’ during its early days inorder to pilot the concept of ‘silent café’ at The Coffee Shrub.

‘Silent Coffee’ is the second place winner of Miyaheli 2019, which is a social innovation camp organized by UNDP annually in collaboration with Ooredoo and other partners. Miyaheli offers young people the opportunity to test innovative ideas and solutions to developmental problems and offers seed funding for the implementation of the winning ideas. Operationalisation of the ‘Silent Café’ concept in Maldives was proposed by ‘Silent Coffee’ during Miyaheli 2019 to break the communication barrier between the hearing community and the hearing impaired through the promotion of sign language.

As part of the collaboration between Team Coffee Shrub and Team silent Coffee to pilot the ‘Silent Café’ concept at The Coffee Shrub, 3 baristas who have impaired hearing were trained and given the opportunity to work at the Coffee Shrub for a period of 4 months and the café’s menu was also been developed in sign language. In addition to this, to celebrate the successful collaboration between the two teams which resulted in the launching of The Coffee Shrub as the first ever inclusive café in Maldives, The Coffee Shrub will share 30% of sales made on 26th and 27th November 2020 with the Silent Coffee team.

“While working with deaf baristas, our baristas at the café learned sign language. We then decided to adopt this as our operating standard, where all our baristas will be trained in sign language and any hearing-impaired person will be able to place an order for food and drinks at the café without any communication barrier. It has been a learning process for all of us, understanding the need to create an environment where persons with disabilities feel welcome and respected,” said Siwa Haleem, a partner at the Coffee Shrub

“We are very pleased to see the Coffee Shrub adopting the standard that all their baristas can communicate in sign language. Our aim was to create a warm and friendly social space for the hearing impaired, where we do not feel awkward or disadvantaged or even discriminated against. We hope that more and more people will take an interest in learning sign language and that these standards are mainstreamed in all public places and service areas,” said the lead member of Team ‘Silent Coffee’, Mr. Awwam.

The three baristas with impaired hearing were offered part time jobs by The Coffee Shrub post the collaboration period as well. Through such employment opportunities for people with impaired hearing, The Coffee Shrub continues to raise awareness in support of deaf culture, sign language and the challenges faced by people with hearing disabilities when participating in society and when trying to have access to basic rights.

In addition to this, The Coffee Shrub further aims to raise awareness for the need for employers in both public and private sector to offer training and job opportunities to people with impaired hearing or order to create an all inclusive culture within our community.