A new Oak Flats cafe opened on Monday with the majority of its staff living with an intellectual or developmental disability.
Following the success of Australia’s first Ratha’s Place in Western Sydney, philanthropists Faye and Blayne Webb wanted to offer the same training and employment opportunities in their home town.
Manager Meaghan Pritchard works between both venues and comes from a background in the disability sector.
She said often hospitality opportunities focused on staff cleaning tables or taking out rubbish.
“We are teaching them anything within a cafe that they want to do –everything from making coffee, food prep, even if they just want to wait tables,” Miss Pritchard said.
“We’ve actually got someone in Sydney who we’re going to put through [an apprenticeship] to become a full-time chef.”
They are also taking enrollments for a 16-week training course which gives on-the-job training as well as assistance completing a Certificate II in Hospitality.
“Hopefully once they start and get the confidence, they can hopefully grow and go to open employment themselves,” Miss Pritchard said.
The Central Avenue cafe is having a soft opening and will only operate Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays for the first few weeks to ease their employees into work-life.
They currently serve coffee, cake, and sandwiches plus bacon and egg rolls.
It’s hoped the establishment will be running seven days a week by February and offer a wide variety of food – mostly created by their in-house chefs at their St Marys venue.
There are also plans to open a third Ratha’s Place in Luddenham.
The Webb family are also behind the charity Help2Help which assists impoverished communities in Cambodia through education and training.
They named their cafe’s after a young Cambodian boy with significant disabilities, Ratha, whom they helped get urgent medical attention in 2011.
They later established a hospitality training facility and restaurant in rural Cambodia to provide help with education and health care in their local community.