SINGAPORE - Surrounded by full-length glass windows and sporting chic wooden furnishing, Rainbow Centre's newest space, the Seeds Cafe, appears no different from the host of cafes that have popped up in Singapore in recent years.
But there is something special about it.
Seeds Cafe, which was officially launched on Saturday (May 5), is staffed by students with special needs from the Rainbow Centre, which helps people with developmental disabilities. The cafe, which also has a handful of full-time and part-time staff, serves as a training ground to prepare the centre's students for work opportunities in the food and beverage industry.
Tanjong Pagar GRC MP, Ms Joan Pereira, who launched the cafe, said: "Regardless of whether one has a disability, everyone can share fond memories over food and fun, and this will help strengthen the social fabric of the community."
Ms Tan Sze Wee, executive director of the Rainbow Centre, said: "The Seeds Cafe is an authentic setting for the centre's students - it exposes them to the real world, and enables them to learn things they would not in a classroom. We've seen them adapting and growing through the experience."
Students have been training at the cafe since November last year, There are currently eight students, who are 17 or 18, interning at the cafe. They usually work two days a week, for two-and-a-half to four hours a day.
Visitors to the cafe not only get to try its specialty coffee and food offerings, but on the first Saturday of every month, they will also get to visit a market held outside the cafe that sells things such as handmade crafts by students.
The monthly market also features workshops for the public and persons with disabilities, including a textile painting workshop hosted by staff and students of the Rainbow Centre.
For Harish Ganesan, a 17-year-old student at the Rainbow Centre, interning at the cafe has helped him become more confident, and also get used to the long work hours.
"My favourite part of the job is making drinks, and serving people," he said, adding that his goal is to find success in his work, and grow more confident and strong.
"I also want to keep being cheerful," he added.
Harish has already been offered a part-time position at the Good Thyme Bistro, where he had interned at previously under the Rainbow Centre's job attachment programme.
Ms Tan said: "We hope that Seeds will introduce the lives of persons with disabilities to the public, and encourage mutual interaction without fear or uncertainty."
Correction Note: This story has been edited for clarity.