New cafe creates gateway opportunities for young people – with a flourish

by | Sep 1, 2022 | News

The country’s first youth training café for young people with disabilities has opened its doors in Auckland.

Employing someone with an intellectual disability gives them an opportunity that can change their lives, as well as benefit a business with the diverse skills talents and abilities that they bring.

Flourish Café, located on Como Street in Takapuna, provides a significant stepping-stone to employment and independence for school leavers with intellectual and learning differences who otherwise may find the transition to paid employment overwhelming.

The cafe had only been open several weeks but there had been huge growth in that time, reports RNZ, after sending a camera crew along to check the cafe out. 

Operated by Project Employ, a charity that helps neuro diverse young people learn the skills they need to move into the workforce, Flourish Café is a real life workplace that gives its trainees experience across all aspects of running the business – from the kitchen to the front-of-house.

“We know there is a real issue in our communities – a gap between school and joining the workforce, for young adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities and learning differences,” says co-founder of Project Employ Sarah Dann-Hoare.

“Our mission at Project Employ is to provide a genuine gateway to employment and independence by creating life-changing opportunities. Flourish Café does exactly that, by giving our trainees a unique, authentic work environment in which every situation is recognised as a valuable learning opportunity, preparing these young people for the workforce.

“Of course, it also provides the local community and visitors from further afield with a range of delicious food, coffee, and other treats, as well as a lovely environment to sit and enjoy them in. All while knowing you are supporting a very worthy cause,” says Dann-Hoare.

Five trainees will work in the café for a six-month period before the next cohort of five trainees begin their hands-on learning experience. Once they have completed their training, they will be supported into paid jobs by PolyEmp and Autism NZ, supported employment organisations who are partnering with Project Employ.

“These young people compete for employment with neuro typical school leavers but have often never had a part time or holiday job, struggle to get an interview or be seen as an employment possibility. This training will help change that,” adds Dann-Hoare.

Funded by a range of organisations including Foundation North, Lindsay Foundation, Lottery Grants Board and the IHC Foundation, the intention is for the not-for-profit café to ultimately become self-funding.

Project Employ and Flourish Café is also supported by a group of passionate ambassadors including actor and singer Shane Cortese, actresses Angela Bloomfield and Libby Hunsdale and high profile nutritionist Claire Turnball. Claire has provided the café with some of her own recipes which she will be teaching the trainees how to prepare. “It’s such an honour to be able to support Project Employ with the opening of Flourish,” says Turnball.

“I’ve met the first cohort of trainees and left the meeting in tears. Tears of joy for these beautiful human beings who finally feel like they have a place in the world. A place they are seen, heard and understood. A place where they are able to connect, contribute and find a sense of purpose. The very essence of what we all need as human beings to feel like our lives matter.

“Sarah and her support crew at Project Employ are doing such great things for young adults with learning disabilities. They are making a difference.”

Flourish Café is open Monday to Friday 7am to 3.30pm, 19 Como Street Takapuna.

Project Employ believe young adults can be transformed, simply by getting a job. Their mission is to support young people with disabilities as they transition into the workforce, so they can live happy and productive lives. The Project Employ café will provide a training programme of skills and work experience, so our trainees become work ready.

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