A NEW social enterprise cafe in Wangaratta is already fostering life-changing outcomes for young people with disability.
Within six months, the number of trainees had already grown to 13 and two original participants, Zach and Akasha, would soon start paying jobs in Wangaratta businesses.
When she started in December, trainee Akasha - who experiences anxiety - at times struggled to interact with customers and needed help to navigate public transport.
Within months of working at the cafe, Akasha said she enjoyed interacting with customers and was now travelling to work independently.
"I like learning new things, making coffee and prepping food," she said.
"I have my RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) so I want to maybe work in a pub or somewhere. I'd like to start earning money and save up to buy something."
Cafe team leader Corneilius Scott said trainees got help with resumes, cover letters and interview preparation.
"Local businesses, Cafe PreVue and Wangaratta RSL, have expressed interest in taking some of our trainees on, which is fantastic," he said.
The cafe has become a community hub, hosting trivia nights and fundraisers.
It has also just opened a "safe space" from 3pm and 5pm weekdays for teenagers who may feel marginalised.
This month the cafe gained its 12-month Social Traders certification, which meant it was now recognised nationally as a genuine social enterprise (existing specifically to make the world a better place).
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VMCH general manager Disability Services Daniel Carter said he was thrilled with the progress of the cafe, building on VMCH's existing disability support programs.
"I'd like to thank the local community for truly embracing and supporting us; even Officeworks gave us a month of free printing to help out," he said.
"Having the cafe run as a viable business will also hopefully set us up to replicate this concept in other locations where job skills opportunities for people with disabilities are needed."
Mr Carter was buoyed by a recent information night held by VMCH at the cafe, where 40 people joined a talk about future housing options for people with disability.
"We want to build homes designed around people's needs, not ask them to fit in with existing options," Mr Carter said.
To employ a cafe trainee in a paid role, phone 0436 521 787 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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