SINGAPORE - Professor Brawn celebrated the official opening of its third and largest outlet on Wednesday (Jan 22), in the heart of the Enabling Village at Lengkok Bahru.
Professor Brawn is a social enterprise cafe chain run by the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) to provide jobs and social integration opportunities to people with special needs in society.
For ARC president Denise Phua, the new 100-seater Professor Brawn Bistro is particularly special.
"It is located in the public space, out in the community, and has taken our mandate to create employment for people with autism and expanded it to employ adults with other disabilities," she said.
The Enabling Village is a community and social business hub where several companies hire people with disabilities.
Where the other two Professor Brawn Cafes in Raffles Institution and Pathlight School's Campus 1 employ persons with autism, this new bistro also counts persons with intellectual and hearing disabilities among its 16 staff.
The bistro is the result of an entire community's efforts, said guest of honour Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development.
SG Enable facilitated use of the space in the village, ARC provided expertise and support, and corporate partners such as Gong Cha provided job and training opportunities.
Various sponsors, including the Embassy of United Arab Emirates, donated baking equipment, furniture, edible plants and even the bistro's landscaping design.
Mr Lee said that such partnerships between the people, public and private sectors are crucial in helping create an inclusive society, as the government does not always have the answers.
"I hope that more individuals and businesses will step forward and work with us to achieve our vision of a caring and inclusive society," said Mr Lee.
Mr Mitchel Wong, who has autism, has worked at this new outlet since October last year. As a food runner and busboy, he is fulfilling his dreams of working in the food and beverage industry.
He calls this place a second home, where the people he works with feel like his second family.
"I have friendly co-workers and coaches who guide me in my work so that I can do well," said the 23-year-old, who also enjoys working as his salary helps support his parents and himself.
Such is Professor Brawn's aim: creating job opportunities for people with disabilities, to help them attain financial independence.
"We will help them by continuing to train and hire more special needs youths and adults through this space and our job coaching and support programme," said Ms Jacelyn Lim, 47, deputy executive director of ARC.
Disabilities should not stop people from leading productive lives, she said, adding: "Work is dignity."
ARC also runs the Employability & Employment Centre (E2C), which aims to equip adults with autism with skills and place them in suitable jobs with appropriate job support.
Some 275 people with autism have found employment through E2C since its founding in 2012.