The Coffee Shrub, on Thursday, launched the 'silent café' concept in collaboration with the runner-ups of the 2019 Miyaheli social innovation camp.
During the annual camp organized by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Maldives, team 'Silent Coffee' proposed and secured seed funding to operationalize an inclusive café concept in Maldives to break the communication barrier between the hearing and hearing-impaired through the promotion of sign language.
The initiative was inaugurated by Resident Representative for UNDP in Maldives, Akiko Fujii.
Speaking at the ceremony, the UNDP representative expressed satisfaction regarding the successful establishment of Maldives' first 'silent café' ahead of the International Day for People with Disabilities.
She went on to thank all the partners that had contributed to the effort including Ooredoo Maldives, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services, as well as the Australian government for the provision of financial assistance. The representative also highlighted the support received from various local NGOs such as Maldives Association of Persons with Disabilities (MAPD), Blind and Visually Impaired Society of Maldives (BVISM) and the Maldives Deaf Association.
Located at Male’ Grand in the capital city of Male', the Coffee Shrub was opened by three young entrepreneurs in March 2020 to serve specialty coffee and home-made pastries.
After the Coffee Shrub began its collaboration with team 'Silent Coffee', three hearing impaired baristas were trained and given the opportunity to work at the café' for four months. Within this period the café’s menu was also compiled in sign language.
"While working with deaf baristas, our baristas at the café learnt sign language", offered Siwa Haleem, a partner at the Coffee Shrub.
"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 would also be able to place an order for food and drinks at the café without any communication barrier".
Siwa also noted that the collaborative process had improved the staff members' understanding on the importance of creating a welcoming and respectful environment for persons with disabilities.
The leader of Team Silent Coffee, Mohamed Awwam further elaborated, "We are very pleased to see the Coffee Shrub adopting a standard in which 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."
"Our hope is that more people will take an interest in learning sign language and that these standards will become a mainstream approach for all public places and service areas", he said.
The Coffee Shrub has offered the three baristas from the Miyaheli team to continue working part-time at the café, following the conclusion of the collaboration period.
According to the Coffee Shrub, providing continued employment opportunities for hearing impaired would be a part of efforts to raise awareness for deaf culture, sign language and the challenges faced by hearing-impaired people in social interaction or attempts to access basic rights.
The establishment added that it aimed to familiarise employers in both the private and public sector, creating awareness on the necessity of creating an inclusive culture, as well as to offer more training and job opportunities for those who are deaf and hard of hearing.
In order to celebrate the success of the project, the Coffee Shrub will share 30 percent of revenue made on November 26 and 27 with the Silent Coffee team.