A cafe of inclusion and empowerment

Mini Flying Star, a café set up by a special educator Mini Naik in Bargarh town, is special in many ways. Not only does it employ differently-abled youths but also allows people to place orders in sign language, writes Mayank Bhusan Pani
Mini Naik with her team.
Mini Naik with her team.

BARGARH: At a small cafe in Bargarh town, three differently-abled youths with the help of a teacher are cooking up a heartwarming story of empowerment and inclusivity.

‘Mini Flying Star’ café which was started by Mini Naik - a former teacher for specially-abled children - two months back, is run by three deaf and mute youths - Ajay Bhoi, Ghanshyam Barik and Hansraj Banchhor.

Until last year, Mini was a teacher at a school for children with mental retardation and hearing impairment in Chhattisgarh. She, however, quit her job a few months back to create a space where such youths could work with dignity. “We put in a lot of effort to educate these youths. Sadly, the avenues to employ them are almost negligible. The idea behind Mini Flying Star was to create some employment for them,” said the owner who belongs to Babebira village in Attabira.

The café soon became a popular spot for locals who were drawn by its innovative concept and the meaningful cause it supports. With her savings and a loan of Rs 5 lakh, Mini moved ahead with her venture but hiring staff was a roadblock. “I contacted many special schools but they could not help me. Subsequently, I found one of the youths from my own village. Later, a friend of mine and her uncle helped me get two more staff,” she said.

Ajay, Ghanshyam and Hansraj have been meticulously trained by Mini with the help of another special educator Deepmala Shyam from Chhattisgarh. Through her guidance, they have mastered the art of taking, preparing, and serving orders with coordination.

Mini Naik with her staff and special educator Deepmala Shyam
Mini Naik with her staff and special educator Deepmala Shyam

But the cafe does not end at employing differently-abled youths. It is designed to promote inclusivity and accessibility.

The menu card incorporates sign language symbols, allowing customers to place their orders effortlessly. Every item on the menu has a short three letter name which the customers can either write down on a paper or convey through sign language. The sign language for every letter has been painted on one of the walls and on the menu card.

This apart, placards are given on every table for other requests like asking for water or to clean the table etc. To call the waiter, one just has to switch on his phone flashlight and raise the phone towards the counter.

“Seeing them work here everyday, with such enthusiasm and confidence, fills me with immense pride. People who visit the place accept that it has opened their eyes to the potential of the specially-abled and the importance of providing them with opportunities,” said Mini.

Her initiative has garnered praise from all quarters and she hopes to expand the venture further.

MENU MATTERS

  • Every item on the menu has a short three letter name which the customers can either write down on a paper or convey through sign language

  • Sign language for every letter has been painted on one of the walls and menu card

  • Placards are placed on tables for requests like water or to clean the table

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