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Sat, Apr 29, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Coffee shop highlights possibilities for disabled

A HELPING HAND Dedicated to providing the mentally handicapped with vocational training, the Children Are Us Foundation has opened a new cafe in Taipei City Hall. The partnership between the city government and the foundation sends a signal to the community that the underprivileged can be productive members of society

By Lin Mei-Chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lin Hsien-hsiung, left, and Lin Chu-ying from the New Formosa Blind Orchestra perform at the inaugural ceremony of the Enjoy Taipei Cafe at Taipei City Hall. The coffee shop is run by the mentally disabled and hopes to show that possibilities exist for everyone.


The lobby of Taipei City Hall was full of songs, music, laughter and tears yesterday, as more than 100 visitors attended the opening ceremony of its newest tenant, the Enjoy Taipei Cafe.

The coffee shop is reportedly the first enterprise in Taiwan to be run by a mentally disabled group in a government building on a permanent basis.

The one-hour ceremony, accompanied by melodies performed by the New Formosa Blind Orchestra (新寶島視障樂團), was attended by Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Director of the Bureau of Labor Affairs, Cheng Tsun-chi (鄭村棋), City Councilor Li Hsin (李新), as well as city council deputy speaker Fei Hung-tai (費鴻泰).

"The city government's goal is to create more job opportunities for the physically and mentally disabled, and our target goal in the upcoming year is to assist more than 1,000 of them to find employment in enterprises and institutions," Ma said.

The Children Are Us Foundation (CAUF, 喜憨兒文教基金會) was commissioned by the city's labor affairs bureau to open the eatery. The two bodies are working together to call on enterprises in Taiwan to offer a helping hand to the mentally and physical disabled -- by recruiting them into the work force.

"We are very pleased that the city government is willing to offer the space to us," foundation chairman Hsiao Shu-jen (蕭淑珍) said. "Situated in a public locale like this, we aim to convey a message to thousands of passers-by every day -- that is, the mentally disabled can become useful members in society with the proper training," Hsiao said.

"Profits gained from charity bazaars are far from sufficient to cover the expenses of the foundation. We need to create a more active channel. That is why we came up with the idea [of running our own bakeries and cafes]," Hsiao said.

Renowned for quality food and amiable service by the mentally disabled staff, CAUF has opened six bakeries and three coffee shops since its establishment in 1995.

The foundation provides vocational training and assists students in job-hunting upon completing their programs.

According to the statistics released by the foundation, it has successfully developed work skills for hundreds of mentally disabled people, and helped find work for dozens of students at various companies.

"I can't describe how I feel at this moment. [My son] Wu Shih-cheng (吳世正) was born as a premature baby and was very difficult to raise as a child. I am very grateful for all the foundation has done for him. To see how he has changed since working here is unbelievable," said a tearful Mrs Wu.

Wu, now 35 years old, suffered severe brain damage while still in his mother's womb.

"What the foundation is doing is extremely helpful to my son, but I think the government should help these `children' more by extending its subsidy program to two years from its current one year," said Kung Chiao-lan (龔巧蘭), whose 25-year-old son, Tu Jui-hao (杜瑞皓), is another student at the foundation.

"One year is not long enough for these `children' to become proficient in what they are learning," Kung added.

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