Bengaluru’s Mitti Cafe is not just an ordinary place – it’s a cafe that employs people with various disabilities, empowering them to ‘earn with dignity’.
Alina Alam, 28, spearheaded the initiative utilizing an internship program through the Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, Bengaluru.
As reported by the Hindustan Times, Alam shared with Life Beyond Numbers that her aim was to give a platform for people with disabilities to earn with dignity and 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,” said Alam, Founder of Mitti Cafe.
Mitti means ‘Mud’ in Hindi. The concept is we are all the same despite gender, class, ideology, and many other aspects. We came from Mud and will return to Mud. As a result, Mitti Cafe was born.
In August 2017, Mitti Cafe set up its first outlet at Deshpande Foundation on the campus of B.V.B. College of Engineering and Technology. Securing funding and a proper supply chain were two of Alam’s main challenges in starting the foundation.
Alam established her first branch with crowdfunding and borrowing kitchen supplies.
Speaking about Kirti, one employee at Mitti Cafe, Alam said, “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 Alam.
Menus are printed in braille, lights flicker to alert staff with hearing disabilities that customers have entered, and the cafe offers both outdoor and indoor seating.
Approximately 90% of Mitti Cafe’s team is comprised of adults with physical, intellectual, and psychiatric disabilities with a total of 116 paid employees and 380 trained persons with disabilities candidates.
Every day, the team provides about 3,500 meals that are specifically prepared by team members with disabilities. They serve free meals to the homeless and underprivileged. Mitti Cafe also serves COVID-19 patients and charges a minimal amount to those who can afford it.
MITTI Karuna Meals has served over 7.2 lakh meals in the last four months.
Karuna Meals have now started a ‘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,” Alam said.
Their goal is to extend their services across India.
This story was first published on Life Beyond Numbers.