A place for coffee — and equality

Som Kanika / Khmer Times No Comments Share:

Coping with physical disability is never easy; in other cases, some do not seem to have any chance of winning over it. It gets even harder for those who have to suffer financial setbacks, too.

In Cambodia, several people have difficulties in hearing and speaking. Their deafness, more often than not, gets in the way of getting the best education, social involvement and employment opportunities.

Meng Hoy, for one, is born deaf. Now at 22, he gives his best effort in the job opportunity that opened up for him at the “Socials: Coffee and Humanity”.

Located inside PPCBank’s revamped Boueng Trabek branch, “Socials” is a social enterprise and a coffee shop that focuses on generating entrepreneurship and employment opportunities for deaf people in Cambodia.

It was founded by Swapnil Deshmukh, a former banker who envisioned the concept of creating the kingdom’s first deaf-managed coffee shop. Swapnil was inspired to create such after his visit to a silent tea house operated by all-deaf staff in neighbouring Vietnam.

“Socials” is on a mission to change the perception and unintentional biases by businesses towards hiring deaf people. The company wants to set an example and send a strong message to other establishments that everyone should be given equal chances to show their skills and talents in whatever field.

“Socials“ staff prepares drinks for her customers. Supplied

Speaking at the launching ceremony, Swapnil said, “Not every job requires one to speak, listen or move things around. As a result of this unconscious bias, businesses are excluding some highly skilled and talented labour from the job market. We are currently in the first phase of our ongoing effort wherein we have created a much loved coffee brand with physical and digital distribution network. In the second phase, we want to empower deaf people to become entrepreneurs and set up their own business – like coffee carts – by providing them with hands-on trainings, tools and necessary financing, ultimately giving them financial control in their own hands”.

Meng Hoy defies all the odds to show people the other side of the coin – his ingenuity, resilience and will to find ways to turn the lemons that life have thrown at him into lemonades.

“With all of my heart, I am so happy to get this job. It’s an opportunity given to me to change my destiny and to make the best out of an unfortunate life. This job helped me a lot in my living and survival,” said Meng Hoy through an interpreter.

Meng Hoy said he immediately fell in love with the job as he finds fulfillment in serving good coffee to the café’s clients.

“My disability is no obstacle for me working as a coffee maker and you might think being deaf hinders us from communicating, but deaf people like me can still communicate and understand through your gestures, facial expressions and sign language.”

“Socials” aims to be a socially responsible and environment friendly space for everyone. The company also promises above average wages, medical insurance (becoming the first enterprise to introduce insurance for part-time staff in Cambodia) and other meaningful benefits to their staff.

In a bid to be eco-friendly in their actions, “Socials” provides metal straws and cutlery for dine-in customers, and biodegradable straws, paper bags for take-away customers. “Socials” is continuously seeking ways to reduce plastic usage and will invest in more green technologies and materials. “Socials” aspires to create an ecosystem of social enterprises and seeks out partnerships with local small businesses that focus on ethical sourcing and social causes.

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