This 28-year-old is empowering the specially-abled to earn with dignity
- Alina Alam learned about the enormous potential of individuals with disabilities through an internship program at Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, Bengaluru.
Bengaluru’s Mitti Cafe is not just an ordinary place but a cafe run differently-abled. People managing the Cafe’s day-to-day operations have various disabilities, ranging from visual and hearing impaired to Asperger’s and Down’s syndrome.
A 28-year-old’s passion and dream led to Mitti Cafe four years ago. Alina Alam learned about the enormous potential of individuals with disabilities through an internship program at Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, Bengaluru.
In a candid conversation with Life Beyond Numbers, Alina shared what drives her every day and her journey with Mitti Cafe that is changing lives for good.
Her main aim was to provide a platform for people with disabilities to earn with dignity. The cafe’s outreach programs strive to raise awareness regarding disability rights and inclusion.
“The challenge, I realized, was not their abilities, but our perspective of them and the constraints we imposed on how we perceived them. This needed to alter. I was keen to build a model that was visible, practical, and interactive, as well as one that could raise awareness about the importance of diversity. That was the genesis of Mitti Cafe’s concept,” shared Alina Alam, Founder of Mitti Cafe.
She believed food has more potential to connect with people as it is also a basic necessity. The target was to reach the maximum amount of people. Mitti Cafe mainly aims to empower the specially-abled by generating employment and creating awareness.
Why the name ‘Mitti’?
Mitti means ‘Mud’ in Hindi. The concept is we are all the same despite gender, class, ideology, and many other. We came from Mud and will return to Mud. As a result, Mitti Cafe was born.
In August 2017, Mitti Cafe established its first outlet at Deshpande Foundation on the campus of B.V.B. College of Engineering and Technology. Getting funded and establishing a proper supply chain were two of Alina’s first challenges in starting the firm.
Alina established her first branch primarily using crowdfunding funds and decided to borrow supplies for the kitchen.
Alina continued, “She couldn’t even hold a pen when she first began training with us. All we did for the first few months was teach her how to hold a cup. She can now count money deftly and supervise the differently-abled crew from her wheelchair. She is the brand ambassador for MITTI Cafe and has become a well-known public personality in Hubli.”
“Kirti showed me that no matter how simple or small your efforts are, they have the potential to transform the world for a single individual. Ultimately, the goal is to reach a billion Kirti’s around the world by participation, learning, and the creation of sustainable livelihoods for people with disabilities,” expressed Alina.
Self-explanatory menu cards are printed in braille, light-flickering button to alert the staff. The cafe has both outdoor and indoor seating with a brilliant ambiance. Not just that, the warm welcome by the specially-abled employees and a bright smile on their face makes the place even more warm and beautiful.
About 90% of Mitti Cafe’s team comprises adults with physical, intellectual, and psychiatric disabilities with a total of 116 paid employees and 380 trained PWD candidates.
Karuna Meals To Aid During Pandemic
Every day, the team provided approximately 3,500 meals that were specifically prepared by team members with disabilities. They served free meals to the homeless and underprivileged. Mitti Cafe also served COVID patients and charged a minimal amount who could afford it.
Also, read: 5 Indian Tourist Destinations That Are Physically-Challenged Traveler Friendly
MITTI Karuna Meals has served over 7.2 lakh meals in the previous four months with intends to expand to thousands more.
Now the Karuna Meals have turned into ‘Gift a Meal Initiative’.
“We believe that by involving people with disabilities, they will act as change agents by example, promoting a system of self-sufficiency and wellness with our innovative livelihood development initiative while also promoting disabilities inclusiveness in the workplace,” Alina said.
After several rejections, empty pockets, and failed business to a big hit cafe, Alina credits all the team members for the extraordinary work. They aim to extend their services across India by training and employing the specially-abled.
This story was first published on Life Beyond Numbers.