Café Arpan, in Juhu, which employs those who suffer from various developmental disabilities, is crowdfunding on ImpactGuru and seeking donations directly on its website to sustain its
operations and ensure salaries are paid to its team, said Ashaita Mahajan from Yash Charitable Trust (YCT).
Established in August 2018, Café Arpan is the first such enterprise set up by YCT, a non-governmental organisation that intends to improve the quality of life of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities by giving them employment opportunities. However, like many others in the hospitality industry, the business of this cafe too took a hit because of the lockdown.
YCT had also started a second cafe in a corporate company's campus at Vikroli in January 2020. But due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the cafe hardly got any chance to carry out its business.
Mahajan said, "Majority of our café revenue is used to cover the operating cost. Being an NGO, we rely on donations and we have regular donors who pay the annual donation fees. But we have not had any revenue for the two months. Plus, there’s the uncertainty of what is going to happen in general to the food industry. So, we have decided to reach out to fundraising platforms. We want to make sure that we don't reach a point where we have to shut operations. Our team is very important to us and we are going to do everything to stay open."
About 17 individuals with autism and other developmental disorders are employed in the cafe. Besides this, YCT also provides skilled training and has to bear expenses on that front as well. "We are a team of 28 people and the funds we are raising will support the entire team. Also, post lockdown, withstanding the storm will be challenging. It won't be an easy way to continue the business. We are in need of Rs 25 lakh. In just two weeks, YCT's ImpactGuru fundraiser managed to collect Rs 15 lakhs. We are happy with the kind of response we are getting and looking forward to receiving more funds."
Interestingly, the cafe was launched through a crowdfunding drive hosted by ImpactGuru. Back then, it raised over Rs 7.80 lakh besides other the donations and fundings it received. Mahajan, who used to work in a music and event management company, left her full time job three years ago and is now completely working for the NGO. She said, "Earlier, I used to assist the NGO on the weekends. However, later, I realised I have to give time, as there is so much to do. While we thought of cafe Arpan, we received lots of applications. For us, these individuals are equal. They are being treated with the same respect and with the same rules like any other individual is at their workplace."
When asked how the cafe came into existence, Mahajan explained that her first cousin sister, who has autism, inspired her. "From childhood, we have been together and I am very close to her. Because of her, we (Mahajan and her aunt Dr Sushama Nagarkar) thought of this initiative. Our aim is to provide an inclusive space for autism and other developmental or intellectual disorder individuals and make them independent."