Think blind chefs can’t possibly cook at full speed? This small café at the NAB Centre in New Delhi is here to prove you wrong. Popular for its scrumptious food, this café is run by blind women. This group of women with visual disability have a vision beyond the ordinary.
Blind women have been the worst sufferers as their parents would find them a burden at home and no boys would ever come forward to marry them, says Shalini Khanna, Hony Secretary, NAB India Centre for Blind Women and Disability Studies.
To empower the blind community, the NAB Centre trains and grooms visually impaired girls so they can find a foothold in the society.
Two years ago, we realized that a few girls had the cooking acumen and they stunned us by cooking delicacies such as kachoris, dhoklas, mathris, and muffins, says Shalini. That’s what prompted her to come up with an idea that would change the lives of these blind women – the idea to start a café run by the blind. The main motive behind it being that these women don’t need charity; they have the ability to work and earn their own living.
The Road to Independence
We started with an advanced cooking module to develop advanced skills in food preparation and cooking, Shalini says. The next step was to give them a professional exposure and teach them soft skills so that they can manage relationships with the customers and run the café on their own.
We wanted them to learn from the best. For which, we needed financial assistance and that’s when we decided to start a campaign on Milaap, Shalini says. The campaign was shared in their networks and it not only achieved its target amount of Rs 160,000 but also received a lot of love and support from people.
“Our network helped and a lot of like-minded friends in the sector helped us when we needed them the most,” says Shalini.
An Uphill Climb
The selected group of blind women needed professional training, and no one said it was going to be a piece of cake. First and foremost, Shalini and her team had to make the trainers clear of their concept – a café that will help these blind women take the charge of their lives.
Their path was filled with hurdles. But, the NBA team was determined to turn their idea into a reality. These women lacked mobility, confidence, and the necessary life skills to accomplish on their own. Moreover, they have to deal with all sorts of challenges in the kitchen, most of which boils down to precise organization.
From Darkness to Light
Despite all the odds stacked against them, these women refused to give up. They stood strong. Although it began as a high-risk experiment, it ended up turning into a socially responsible and successful enterprise. The girls have received support and training from Taj hotel Chief Chef Arun and had the NAB Centre collaborated with several Barista outlets in the city.
The girls now wish to now take orders from small organizations as well as corporates and take their café to the next level, Shalini says. The success of this project has not only helped them become financially independent but also boosted their confidence tremendously.
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