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.