Deaf can... brew coffee

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate editor features thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 23, 2016

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In a year from now when they complete the HEART Trust’s new food and beverage course, a group of students from the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf (CCCD) are expected to become the first certified baristas in the country.


That, as far as the school administration is concerned, is a big deal for a community of people which has been largely locked out of the mainstream job market on account of their inability to hear.


"The most obvious outcome is that they will be equipped with a skill which is more marketable, especially for them," manager of the CCCD’s Kingston campus Stephen McFarlane told the Jamaica Observer.


"All our national and regional exams are English-based. To test them based on English-based language is much more difficult for the average deaf person, so you will find the average deaf person not having CXCs [exams administered by the Caribbean Examinations Council] and when they do, it’s usually with a grade two or three. That’s not to say grade one is impossible, it is just more difficult.


"So a skill presents something with which they can function and allows them to be their own bosses if needs be, and if they do have a boss, it’s not going to require them to be over them at all times," he explained.


A barista, in general terms, is someone who makes and serves coffee.


The HEART certification will also be a boon for Deaf Can, a coffee house the school operates on its Cassia Park Road campus in Kingston. It currently has a handful of graduates employed, with support from staff and missionaries. They are trained in the area, but are not certified.


As McFarlane explains it, Deaf Can started as a school project in January last year. A group of boys went on a field trip to a deaf coffee farmer in St Elizabeth and were impressed with his work ethic in spite of his perceived disability. They subsequently bought coffee from him, which they brewed and sold to staff and students at school. But when overseas missionaries from CCCD’s network undertook to professionally training some of the students, and with sponsorship from Digicel, the coffee house expanded beyond the campus walls.


On invitation from corporate or other types of groups, the baristas-in-training sell their brews, including espressos, lattes, and cappucinos, at various events. The most recent of these was at the High Commission of Canada last Thursday, where the British Columbia Institute of Technology and emPOWERed Caribbean Communities signed a memorandum of understanding to partner on energy research.


In addition to caffeinated brews, Deaf Can also does blended juices, smoothies, and a variety of pastries. It also carries a line of branded T-shirts and hand-sculpted coffee mugs.


"I can, with 99.9 per cent accuracy say that there are no trained baristas in Jamaica so we are now partnering with HEART to do food and beverage and barista training," said McFarlane.


He explained that it was at CCCD’s request that the HEART programme was tweaked to included formal barista training. The course began earlier this month with a cohort of 15 students.


CCCD is operated by a West Virginia-based charity. It offers basic education, vocational training, mentorship, and support to the deaf. In addition to the Kingston location, it has campuses in Montego Bay, St James, and Knockpatrick, Manchester, as well as the 100-acre Jamaica Deaf Village also in Manchester that offers housing, employment, and a church. According to the institution’s website, when complete, the village is expected to provide single family homes, apartments, places of employment, educational, medical and recreational facilities, a day care centre, a shopping centre, a retirement centre and a conference centre.

  

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