A Leeds café that is staffed by people with Down’s syndrome is changing lives and challenging preconceptions, thanks to The Wesleyan Foundation, which is managed by the Heart of England Community Foundation.

The Foundation’s Wesleyan Fund distributes grants across the UK with the help of nine Community Foundations.

One year on from receiving a £8,000 grant from The Wesleyan Foundation the Café 21 project has been able to open its doors and train young adults with Down’s syndrome to run a café in Headingly.

The project is run by Sunshine & Smiles, the Leeds charity that supports young people with Down’s syndrome and their families. The aim of the café is to provide young people with new skills, confidence and independence through the experience of helping to run a local community café.

Louise, 24, is just one of the young people who has enjoyed serving customers at Café 21. She said:

“I love the project so much! I’ve learned how to make lots of drinks, serve food and wait on tables and grow fresh produce in the café garden.

 

“I love being able to do worthwhile work and keep on learning new skills. The support is brilliant, and in the future I would love to work at the café full time!

 

“Since I began working with in the café I have also got involved in volunteering at my local neighbourhood elders team and I help with coffee mornings.”

Louise’s mum Maxine says the project, which also provides monthly speech and language classes, has had an incredibly positive impact on her daughter and the whole family. She said:

“Louise’s speech and language are slowly improving; her friendship group has increased, and her work skills have come on in leaps and bounds.

 

“Before Café 21, I would never have imagined that Louise would be able to do a job like this in hospitality. It has changed her future, it really is a miracle!”

Sunshine & Smiles is a parent-led charity that helps children and young people across Leeds with speech and language therapy, individual support and advocacy for families, and seeks to raise awareness and challenge preconceptions about Down’s syndrome.

Caroline Hill, Director of HR & Corporate Services at Wesleyan, said:

“It’s fantastic to see the young people who are working at Café 21 finding the experience so rewarding.

 

“They are getting the kind of support and experience that can lead to job opportunities and I know that the café has had a great response from the local community.

 

“Sunshine & Smiles is an amazing organisation that is making a real difference in Leeds and we are very proud to have been able to support this project.”

Tina Costello, Foundation CEO, said:

“Sunshine and Smiles is a fabulous organisation and it is a pleasure to see their work benefitting families in the area. The opportunities they offer are second to none and I look forward to seeing more of their members flourish.”

The Wesleyan Foundation was launched in June 2017 by specialist financial services mutual Wesleyan and has already provided more than £715,000 in funding to over 160 charities, community groups and social enterprises around the country.

For more information about the Wesleyan Foundation and to apply for funding visit http://www.wesleyan.co.uk/foundation/ or http://www.heartofenglandcf.co.uk/wesleyan-foundation-grants/