This Kolkata Breakfast Joint Run By Specially-Abled Adults Was Started By Six Caring Mothers

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Sip N Bite – a small, quaint breakfast cafe tucked inside the handicraft boutique Motherland, with its characteristic green, shuttered windows and yellow walls exuding the nostalgic essence of Kolkata, offers something beyond their sumptuous ‘snacks and beverage’ menu. The cafe is completely managed by specially-abled adults, each of whom partakes in the nitty-gritty of running a successful venture – right from baking fabulous cupcakes to tabulating the days’ profits in the accounts log. While society might not have been proactive in integrating them in the mainstream, their mothers have joined hands to launch this beautiful breakfast joint to provide them with permanent employment and a dignified professional identity.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

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Sip N Bite is managed by a team of 16 special adults

Inside the cafe, 16 young men and women can be spotted cooking in the kitchen, serving hungry customers with an amiable smile or diligently calculating the bills. Their expertise and sincerity are sure to evoke awe, more so when someone learns that they have been diagnosed with Autism, Down’s Syndrome and other cognitive challenges. Genetic anomalies might have posed multiple obstacles throughout their lives, but have failed to dampen their soaring spirits.

The team of sixteen adults currently employed at Sip N Bite were all trainees at Transcendent Knowledge Society at one point, a skill development centre for special youngsters founded by Amrita Roy Chowdhury, a dynamic mother.

The mothers who started it all

“We offered a wide range of skill-based training at our centre. But, soon, the parents realised that the present scenario curtails their career prospects up to the training only. There is very less opportunity available for these youngsters to put their training to use in a professional setup and earn through it. We thought, why don’t we start something for them?” shares Amrita, in a conversation with Efforts For Good.

In collaboration with South Kolkata Parashmani, a parent-run organisation for their special children, Amrita and a group of five mothers started Sip N Bite at 13A, Lake Road, Kolkata last year – inside a handicrafts store. The cute and catchy name of the place was suggested by the group of workers themselves.

Aside from the outlet, Sip N Bite also puts up kiosks and stalls at corporate premises on special requests.

“Twenty chefs rejected our invite to train the employees”

Amrita recalls, “We never imagined that our youngsters would work so devotedly and with such perfection. These people were initially trained according to their passion, their communication skills and their grasping abilities. Before starting the cafe, we selected 16 of our best performers and invited professional chefs to train them. Twenty chefs rejected us upfront, one after another, for one reason or the other. Finally, the 21st and 22nd chefs graciously welcomed our students and mentored them for months. After a successful pilot project, we inaugurated the cafe finally in 2018.”

Food is the primary (and only) focus

All the workers at Sip N Bite are adults, aged between 20 and 40 years. A few of them were proud first-time voters in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. Amrita admits that the work has helped them evolve immensely. “They have had incredible personal growth,” she reiterates.

The employees work on a shift basis which entitles one to work for not more than four to five hours a day. A few of their mothers also assist them in the daily kitchen and counter chores.

“Our primary and exclusive focus is the food and only the food. We never ever portray the disabilities of our workers, rather we promote the exemplary breakfast platters cooked by them. And, I would admit that the response has been amazing from our customers. People keep coming back over and over again to enjoy the food in our soothing ambience,” shares Amrita.

The strategic location of the cafe near the morning walkers’ hub has been a boon for Sip N Bite, as hordes of young and old walkers keep pouring in for having a hearty meal and interacting with the amazing youngsters working there.

The baking skills of the Sip N Bite employees have been so widely acclaimed that the franchise is willing to launch their mobile bakery van soon.

Buying a mobile phone with first salary

Sip N Bite was started with the main aim of economically and socially rehabilitating special individuals. “Even today, there is a subtle sense of sympathy for many special individuals, often from their own extended families. But, here, they have become full-time professionals like every other adult and their families could not be more proud,” narrates Amrita.

However, the happiness of the employees overwhelms everything else. One of them purchased a mobile phone with his first salary, while another shyly expressed his desire to have a girlfriend, now that he has a stable job in life.

For the first-time voters in the team, it was exhilarating to go to the polling booth and stand in a queue – as equal as every citizen of India. One of the voters posted on her Facebook wall how happy she feels after ‘executing her democratic right’. This is exactly where lies the success of Sip N Bite mentor team – to help them grow as individuals and stand on their own feet in every aspect of the phrase.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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