The Future of Cafe 21

The Future of Cafe 21

Last week saw a phenomenally busy & wonderful pilot project in the form of Cafe 21.

We took over the Carousel event space in Far Headingley from 16th to 25th March – running a cafe everyday with evening events such as a film screening, pamper, pottery & curry nights!

A team of 6 young adults with Down syndrome worked at the cafe throughout the week supported by Sunshine & Smiles staff & volunteers.

Everyone worked incredibly hard, the team work was amazing … and the cafe was so busy we had to turn customers away! We also had visits from local TV & newspapers who were keen to know more about the project.

It was an incredible week which has definitely given us a taste for where Cafe 21 could lead in the future … but what now?!

Initially we are going to work towards Team Cafe 21 being responsible for the catering & refreshments at our fundraising events such as the Spring Fair & The Book Giveaway … but we have also had time to reflect on how we ensure that the project continues to include as many young people as possible and to acknowledge that everyone’s journey is different and sometimes more complex.

We have a number of young adults who we would like to involve in the next stages of the project … and we also have a whole new generation of Team Cafe 21 growing up … all of whom have different support needs, health issues and additional diagnoses.

This was very much a pilot project and we are committed to ensuring we move forwards with every child & young person in mind for the future of Cafe 21.

Meet Lyall

Lyall is 8yrs old and loved coming to Cafe 21.

Lyall had a very complex start in life. He has had 2 open heart surgeries, major stomach surgery, relied on a ventilator to breathe from 7months until almost 3yrs and had a tracheostomy until he was nearly 5. He spent most of his first 18months in hospital and was completely fed via gastrostomy until he was 3 and still doesn’t drink.

Despite the medical challenges he has faced Lyall is a confident, sociable and hilarious little boy who lives life to the full.

When Lyall did start eating he soon discovered cake and would sign it regularly. After his airway was reconstructed and his trachy removed it was easier for him to speak and “Cake” in a broad Yorkshire accent was one of his first words!

Lyall loves helping out at home and likes to set and clear the table. His favourite meal is a roast dinner and he likes to help cut up the vegetables. He knows all the ingredients needed to make a cake and enjoys baking at home and school although his love of raw cake mix does sometimes mean there’s not much mixture left to actually put in a tin and bake!

If Lyall doesn’t achieve his first ambition of being a contestant on Strictly or his 2nd ambition of being a host on “Pointless” or “Celebrity Mastermind” then he’d absolutely love to work somewhere like Cafe 21.

When he brought his friends from school for a visit they all thought it would be really cool if he worked somewhere like this and said they’d text him to say they were coming to visit! He’s a real host and has liked chatting to customers this week and clearing away plates, most of the time remembering to wait until the customer had finished!

Lyall has so much to offer and with the right support is capable of achieving so much. It would be so fantastic if Cafe 21 could become a permanent part of Sunshine and Smiles and young people like Lyall could gain the training and experience they need to go on and gain employment.

Cafe 21 Opens

Cafe 21 Opens

Leeds charity opens pop-up café to help young people with Down syndrome gain work experience

Leeds-based charity, Sunshine & Smiles has launched a pop-up café to help young adults with Down syndrome get vital work experience.

The pilot project, Café 21, has opened at the Carousel event space in Headingly to coincide with World Down Syndrome Day on 21st March. The café will provide work experience to 16 to 22-year olds with Down syndrome and will be open from the 18th to the 25th March. The project has been supported by the Wesleyan Foundation, which chose Sunshine & Smiles as its national community project of the year, and the Seedbed Trust.

Sunshine & Smiles – which is a parent-led charity – is hoping to attract additional funding to open the café on a permanent basis. It aims to offer young people the chance to gain formal qualifications and obtain work experience, equipping them with new skills, confidence and independence. The charity has already provided the café’s temporary employees with food hygiene and barista training and each will receive one-to-one support from the charity’s workers & volunteers.

Ailith Harley-Roberts, service manager at Sunshine & Smiles, said: “National statistics show that only 17 per cent of all adults with a learning disability are in paid employment. Clearly, it can be difficult for the young people we support to get the work experience and training they need to secure jobs.

“Cafe 21 is a first for Leeds’ Down syndrome community and aims to meet the needs of young people with Down syndrome and create a long-term model where participants are treated like any other trainees and can access training and paid work.

“We’ve already had a fantastic response to the café from the local community and our trainees are getting a lot out of the experience. We’d love the opportunity to create something more permanent and we’re hoping to establish partnerships with local employers & The Down’s Syndrome Association’s WorkFit scheme to enable our young people to access job opportunities.”

Sunshine & Smiles is a parent-led charity that helps children and young people across Leeds by providing speech and language therapy, regular groups and activities, individual support and advocacy for families. The charity aims to raise awareness and challenge preconceptions about Down syndrome in the wider community.

Cafe 21 – Evening Fundraising Events

Cafe 21 – Evening Fundraising Events

We are very excited to let you know about some awareness & fundraising events that we are holding during the evenings as part of our Cafe 21 project week from 17th to 25th March.

All of the events need to be booked in advance please via Eventbrite and are listed below, places are limited and are booking fast.

We hope you will be able to join us!


Saturday 17th March – 7.30pm doors, film at 8pm – My Feral Heart film screening at Stainbeck Hall


Tuesday 20th March – Neal’s Yard Pamper Evening at Cafe 21, 80 Otley Road


Thursday 22nd March – The Potting Studio – Clay Workshop at Cafe 21, 80 Otley Road


Friday 23rd March – Curry Night – 6pm to 7.30pm sitting at Cafe 21, 80 Otley Road


Friday 23rd March – Curry Night – 7.45pm to 9.00pm sitting at Cafe 21, 80 Otley Road


Cafe 21 – Food Safety & Barista Training

Cafe 21 – Food Safety & Barista Training

Café 21 is Sunshine & Smiles’ start-up project that aims to create important training and employment opportunities for young adults who have Down syndrome.

The project will also provide an additional revenue stream and help the charity become more self-sufficient at a time when securing funding through grants is becoming increasingly difficult.

Currently, there is a gap in opportunities for young adults with a learning disability and many are not able to access full time education or training and very few are able to secure meaningful, paid employment.

Recent national statistics show that only 17% of all adults with a learning disability are in paid employment compared to 74% of the general population.

Through the Cafe 21 pilot project 6 young adults with Down syndrome have completed a Level 2 course in food safety, a further 4 young people are currently undertaking barista training with local cafe & coffee roasters, Cielo.

Our young adults will obtain vital skills and work experience along with confidence and independence. The young trainees will be supervised at all times by the charity’s service delivery team.


Food Safety training at Cafe Leep