The Deaf CAN
Expresso, Frapp é, cold brew or milkshake, whether you're a coffee drinker or not, you are likely to find something you like at Deaf Can. Your server is quick and deep in concentration, and in no time, you are served a delicious drink of your choice. But throughout the entire process, unless you know sign language, there is no communication.
That's because you are at the café located at the Caribbean Christian Centre for the deaf in Cassia Park St Andrew. Earlier this year when the mentors from the Kingston branch decided to take the boys Bible study group to Top Hill in St Elizabeth to introduce them to a deaf coffee farmer, they did not think that it would have turned into an entrepreneurial venture.
The young men of the Bible study group were not very confident. They were very reserved, and most of them felt like outsiders being the only ones in their families who were deaf. Through her husband, Blake Widmer, mentor Tashi admitted that this was a common struggle for some of the students who attend the institution and church.
With other deaf persons in her family and community, she knew that being deaf did not stop them from being whatever they wanted to be. This is something she and the other mentors wanted the boys to know. After telling her husband about the deaf farmer from her community, they decided that it was time for a field trip to encourage these young men.
She knew that Clarke would have been a good example because he is so self-aware and great at what he does. This was what the boys needed.
On the visit to Top Hill, the farmer taught them all he knew about coffee, and the boys just gravitated towards it. The mentors were not sure what to do with this new-found enthusiasm or if it was permanent or transient. But the boys insisted that they wanted to roast coffee, and that they did. An overseas partner of the school donated the roaster - and the rest, as they say, is history. They started roasting coffee with the Top Hill logo, but after a while, transitioned to their own coffee - Deaf Can. Why Deaf Can? Because at this point they had come to the realisation that the deaf really can do anything.
The mentors watched in awe as the boys' confidence grew. They shed their reservations, and Outlook got to see this first-hand as Javannie Dawes and Jerome Pindling, both students and workers at Deaf Can told us the story of Deaf Can and gave a demonstration on how they roasted their coffee.
As they went through the process, they showed that you did not need a voice to be charismatic.
The boys did not stop at just roasting the coffee beans for distribution. With encouragement from past students and volunteer Carlyle Gabbidon, they started their café which opened in March.
They communicate with customers who do not know how to sign through their price lists in the café. They also have a tablet that allows them to e-mail the customers their receipts on the spot. You could see that the boys take their jobs seriously because they were focused and took time to ensure everything was done right. They made a delightful mocha frappuccino.
Dorothy William, who has been teaching at the school for the past 15 years, admitted that she was very impressed by the change in the boys.
"They watch how they take care of themselves. They pull up their pants and they look out more for the girls. They are just different," she admitted.
The boys have high expectation for their business venture, and Gabbidon, who is also the manager of the café, is working with the students to expand it so they can have more than walk-in customers.