A café in Istanbul is making headlines for exclusively hiring people with Down syndrome. The aptly named ‘Down Café’ employs staff between the ages of 18 and 25, and aims to empower them with self-confidence and independence.
Saruhan Singen, who founded the café in the Sisli district of Istanbul, said that he was inspired by his own experience of raising a daughter with Down syndrome. She now works at the café as well. “I have Sezil and I think she is a gift to me to understand others like her,” Singen said. “When we think about the number of people with Down syndrome, there is not a wide range of career paths available.”
Photo via World Bulletin
According to Turkey’s National Down Syndrome Association, nearly 1,500 babies are born with the condition in the nation each year. It’s estimated that there are currently over 100,000 people with Down syndrome living in Turkey . According to Singen, “Improved medical care is absolutely essential for these special kids but it is more important that we must do everything possible to help them live more independent and fulfilling lives.”
Singen revealed that when he first opened the café in 2011, business was slow. People would hesitate to enter when they learned about the special staff, but the few who did enter were able to appreciate the ambiance, once the initial surprise wore off. It wasn’t long before the place was teeming with patrons, all impressed with the kind of service provided.
Photo via Daily Sabah
“I think the cafe also helps people get rid of their prejudices against disabled people and provides a chance to people with Down syndrome to prove themselves and show off their talents,” Singen says. “They want to be together with more people, they want to be accepted by the society and they want their talents to be discovered. That is why we need more sponsors, donors and especially more customers to increase the number of the cafes like Down Café.”
“We have volunteer mothers helping us in the kitchen by cooking and washing dishes while Sisli Municipality pays our bills,” he added. Down Café is a joint project Istanbul Foundation for Mentally Disordered People and Sisli municipality, sponsored by Alternative Life Association. The place is open from 9 to 5 on weekdays, and can seat up to 40 customers at a time.
Photo: Facebook/Down Cafe
A couple of months ago, we wrote about Tim’s Place, a restaurant in Albuquerque ran by young Tim Harris, who has Down syndrome. He’s doing such a great job that his establishment is fondly known as the “world’s friendliest restaurant”.