There’s a new coffee shop in town, but it’s no ordinary one. Menggongfang Café, or the Dream Workshop Café, is run entirely by youths with special needs. Despite its location (it’s in a quiet residential neighbourhood along Chengshan Lu), the café has been drawing tons of customers daily – there’s even a chalkboard where the number of customers is updated live by one of the ushers, 21-year-old Yang Ankun. Yang is but one of the seven members of staff at the café, all of whom are graduates of the Pudong Special School located right behind the café.
Since its opening on 28 June, Menggongfang has received an influx of support, with many customers leaving notes of encouragement to staff on a notice board inside the space. In fact, it’s quickly becoming a wanghong spot, with many flocking to the area just to visit the café and to show support for the special needs youths.
The opening of the café is one of the ways in which the school is helping students better integrate into society, as most mentally handicapped students usually get menial jobs as dishwashers or cleaners. ‘Many [mentally challenged kids] may appear to be... slow, but they are actually quite talented in some way,’ Yang Bin, a teacher at the Pudong Special School, tells SHINE
Through working at the café, the school hopes that students can gain interpersonal skills that will allow them to get jobs in other service industry sectors, and also show them that they can lead normal lives despite their various mental conditions.