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.