Cafe Positive, Asia’s First Coffee Shop Run Entirely By HIV Positive Youngsters

Follow Us On

A 12 feet X 10 feet beacon of hope sprouted in the heart of Kolkata, in the form of Cafe Positive – Asia’s first coffee shop run entirely by a group of HIV-positive youngsters. Located in the prime location of Jodhpur Park in South Kolkata, the shop aims to dilute the stigma of HIV lurking in the minds of people. At the same time, it is determined to set an example for other HIV-positive individuals to come together and be independent, both financially and socially. The cafe is the brainchild of Kallol Ghosh, a social entrepreneur working with the United Nations.

Kallol Ghosh (left)

The Background Story

‘Offer’ is a well-known NGO in Bengal with one of their urban centres, Anondoghor, solely dedicated to housing orphan children who are HIV-positive. Anondoghor (The House of Joy), at present, is home to 75 orphan children and teenagers.

Around four years ago, the Government of Japan installed a bakery unit in the organisation campus, complete with high-quality equipments and ingredients. Around ten teenagers were assembled to form a self-help group where they were professionally trained to use the bakery unit to prepare delicious baked goods.

Delicious cakes at Cafe Positive

However, some negative comments surfaced soon, with a few people expressing concern that the children cannot be kept in the orphanage beyond eighteen years and they would not be accepted in the mainstream society to earn a decent livelihood.

This led Mr Ghosh to chalk out a detailed plan to start a business venture for these kids once they turn 18, which finally culminated in Cafe Positive.

The group, guided by Mr Ghosh, struggled hard for six months to rent a plot for starting their dream coffee shop. People would close doors on their faces the moment their HIV positive status was revealed. Others would put up excuses like even if they were okay with it, their family or neighbours would be displeased. None of them co-operated with even an inch of space until finally, one gentleman agreed graciously to lend his small garage space. A display shelf, a semi-automatic coffee machine and a few chairs and tables were arranged. The interiors were decorated in accordance with the positive vibrancy that these youngsters wished to spread. Thus Cafe Positive was born and opened for public on 14th July 2018.

“Coffee is an indispensable part of our social life. People bond over coffee. So our vision was to use coffee as the medium to create awareness among people that HIV-AIDS is just another viral infection.” Mr Ghosh elaborates.

He believes that if people drink coffee and eat food prepared by the HIV-positive workers, they can show the world that HIV is nothing but an age-old myth fed by our misconceptions. HIV-positive people are in no way different from everyone else, and they are an integral part of our society.

Mr. P.C Sen, the founding member of Peerless at Cafe Positive

On the other hand, due to extreme discrimination, the HIV-positive people are mostly left traumatised. Cafe Positive also wishes to extend their hand to those sufferers who are afraid to step into the social limelight, by giving them skill-based training and encouragement.

Cafe Positive features freshly brewed Lavazza coffee and the Bengal’s favourite Cha (tea) on their menu along with everyday favourites like muffins, cookies and sandwiches.

All The Workers Are Professionally Trained

Aside from their flawless baking skills, the ten workers are also experts in managing and operating the cafe all on their own. They work in three teams entitled to the tasks of preparing the food, management and service to the customers, respectively. The management and procuring team has received three months of certificate business management training. After that, they were placed as interns at two other notable restaurants in Kolkata – Travelistan and Snackings.

Response So Far & Future Plans

“The people of Kolkata have warm-heartedly welcomed us”, asserts Mr Ghosh, who counts at least 35 to 50 footfalls every day in their small cafe. Their unique venture has featured in the pages of international newspapers like the New York Times, Washington Post and almost all national newspapers. BBC and CNN have also covered the Cafe Positive story – which has inspired the workers to continue their sincere efforts.

In the next few years, plans are there to expand the cafe with seating provisions for around 30-40 customers together.

 

Coffee Without Boundaries

The tagline of Cafe Positive on their menu chart reads “Coffee for a cause.” “We wish to invite everyone to Cafe Positive. Please come and enjoy our coffee without boundaries.” Mr Ghosh appeals to our readers. He strongly believes that all marginalised people have every right to be a part of our society. It is the duty of the educated people like us to welcome them with open arms.

Also Read:  At Goa’s First All-purpose Zero-Waste Store, You Can Buy Anything Without Plastic & Other Wasteful Packaging

Love this story? Want to share a positive story?
Write to us: [email protected]
Connect with us on Facebook and Instagram

Let us know your thoughts on this story

Support the cause you care for. Browse All CampaignsBrowse all campaigns
Work in progress

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,505 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

Share

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

MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

Follow Us On

A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

Support the cause you care for. Browse All CampaignsBrowse all campaigns
Work in progress

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,505 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

Share

Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

Let us know your thoughts on this story

Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
Next Click right arrow to read the next story Previous