BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Society for the Management of Autism-Related Issues in Training, Education and Resources (SMARTER) has opened its first Bistro and Café, dedicated to train and equip individuals with autism (IWA) for employment opportunities.
SMARTER President Malai Haji Abdullah Malai Haji Othman in his opening speech at the launching ceremony said that persons with disabilities (PWD) face variety of challenges entering a workforce.
“The job market is competitive and unemployment rate is high in the country. It is challenging for them to find a job,” he said.
In the recent 14th Legislative Council meeting, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports YB Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin said that only 56 PWD are currently employed, representing about 0.6 percent out of 9282 individuals registered with the ministry.
The non-profit organisation’s initiative is to create a business for the PWD to have same opportunities as everyone else when entering into the employment world.
The Sungai Hanching – based café was launched in commemoration with International Day of Persons with Disabilities and is operated by 17 students from SMARTER Brunei Autism Centre for Adults (BACA) Centre.
It serves a variety of ASEAN Coffee from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam as well as food such as sandwiches and nasi katok, among others.
In addition to the opening of the coffee shop, diners will also get a chance to enjoy bakery products of SMARTER Washington Bakery, a four-year collaboration with the US Embassy.
SMARTER Deputy Director of Clinical Practices Lourdes Radovan in an interview with The Bruneian said that disabled individuals face many challenges when it comes to breaking into the workforce
“For many of them, this is their first job,” she said, adding that at the café, students are given jobs which best suit their talents and capabilities rather than their disabilities.
Some of the tasks include taking orders, brewing coffee and serving drinks to customers.
“Our objective is to ensure that our students can access training they need for this job and that everyone should be able to work independently at their work station,” she said.
“We want them to be able to become part of the working member of the community,” said Radovan, adding that working hours are adapted to how quick each individual gets tired.
BACA currently has 35 youth students aged between 12 and 34.
In attendance to launch the grand opening SMARTER Bistro and Cafe was Minister Culture, Youth and Sports Major YB Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin.