Cafe Gives Young Disabled Albanians Start in Life

27 October 2014

News 14 Mar 14

E Jona café, a new initiative funded by the Yunus Social Business Fund, is providing work and social inclusion for young people with disabilities.

Besar Likmeta
BIRN

Tirana

Owners and staff of E Jona cafe pose for a group picture | Photo by : Besar Likmeta

The E Jona café is the latest addition to the posh Blloku neighborhood of Tirana, which is made up of hundreds of cafes, bars and nightclubs.

But, unlike anywhere else in the block, morning macchiato can also be ordered here in sign language.

A business set-up by a group of friends, the café that opened its doors this month aims to promote social interaction and networking among youngsters, while raising awareness among the general public about the needs and challenges facing disabled people.

“We are like any other business because we have to turn a profit and the quality of service is very important,” Edlira Nasi, one of the founders, said.

“However, as a social business, the profits are not for us but will be reinvested to expand the staff or open a new location,” she added.

The 2011 census recorded 137,435 people having some sort of disability in Albania.

A recent study by the Organization for Security and Co-operation, OSCE, in Europe showed young people with disabilities face significant challenges, particularly in areas such as employment, education and access to a social life.

Nasi explains that the idea to open the coffee shop materialized more than a year ago, when, faced with the difficulty of meeting a disabled friend over coffee, she and three friends decided to open one of their own.

Realizing that the majority of venues lacked access for disabled people, Nasi started the project for the Ejona café and approached the Yunus Social Business incubator for funding.

Yunus Social Business, YSB, is company that helps set up start-up funds and provides advice to companies, governments, foundations and NGOs.

YSB was co-founded by Peace Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, Saskia Bruysten, Sophie Eisenmann and Hans Reitz.

The company, which started operations in Albania in mid-2012, is aspin-off from the Grameen Creative Lab, established in 2011 to focus on incubator funds and advisory services.

E Jona received €42,700 from the TSB in order to set up the coffee shop and cover costs for the first four months in business.

The venue displays artwork by disabled artists, holds movie screenings and is planning theatre evenings.

However, Nasi says their main goal is to work as a small training centre for young people with disabilities and break the prejudice that they are not employable.

“We want to prove that people with disabilities can do many jobs and need not face limitations,” Nasi said. “Here, when clients buy a cup of coffee, they become aware of this fact,” she added.

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