Zhongxin Wanghai, April 4 -- Why do "children of stars" "work" in this coffee shop in Shanghai?

Written by Yubin Fan

"The barista at this coffee shop turned out to be 'children of the stars.'" Opposite the Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai, there is a small white two-story building with simple and stylish décor, two large characters written on the door, "Fang Tan", and several part-time baristas who work in the store are autistic.

Autism, also known as autism, is mostly children, and they are called "star children".

On the occasion of the "World Autism Awareness Day" on April 4, Huang Yue, the founder of "Fangtan", said in an exclusive interview with a reporter from Chinanews.com that "Fangtan" is not only a coffee shop, but also a cultural space, with coffee shops and book houses downstairs, and film and television culture studios and salon spaces upstairs. "As a public welfare base for the employment practice of autistic people such as 'Dian Dian Xingyi', we use some formats such as coffee to provide employment practice places for autistic people."

The "children of the stars" will also grow up and also need to be integrated into society. According to statistics, there are currently more than 1000 million people with autism spectrum disorder in China, and the growth rate is more than <>,<> per year. The vast majority of families with autism have a need for professional skills and employment support, but there is very little actual help. Therefore, it is very rare to find a public welfare base for employment practice for autistic people like "Fangtan".

Huang Yue hopes that "Fangtan" can become a sustainable public welfare space that aggregates resources. Talking about his relationship with the "children of the stars", he told reporters that his mother worked in the Jade Buddha Temple vegetarian food factory, and his younger brother Huang Jue wanted to rely on the Jade Buddha Temple vegetarian food factory to provide dim sum making skills training for autistic people, so as to help them have a skill and find employment opportunities.

As soon as Huang Jue's thoughts and Huang Yue spoke, the two hit it off. Huang Yue said that when he was studying in the United States, he participated in a public welfare project to pair up "children" families to help parents take care of and accompany "children of stars", so that children can contact more strangers and better integrate into society.

In this way, under the initiative of Huang Jue and Huang Yue, Shanghai Juequn Cultural and Educational Foundation officially launched the "Dian Dian Xingyi" employment practice public welfare project for autistic people two years ago, recruiting autistic trainees to the Jade Buddha Temple vegetarian food factory and Shanghai Modern Food Vocational Skills Training Center to participate in the "dim sum chef of tomorrow" and "barista of tomorrow" skills training.

At the beginning of 2022, "Fangtan" was officially opened. "It just so happens that after these autistic trainees finish their training, they need to have a place to practice." Huang Yue said that they may not be able to find employment opportunities immediately, and "Fangtan" has become a public welfare base for their employment practice.

At present, there are more than 10 autistic trainees in the "Fangtan" employment practice, and 2 masters accompany them. "Each of them is different, and everyone's working hours are not fixed." Through more than a year of contact, observation and guidance, Huang Yue has a deeper understanding of these special trainees and gradually established friendship.

Coffee made by autistic baristas. Photo by Fan Yubin

In Huang Yue's view, these trainees are no different from ordinary people in dim sum roasting and coffee making, and some of them make coffee latte beautifully. They are simple and kind, and need a little more care from their master or partner at work. "Watching their little bit of progress makes me feel very accomplished."

Since the characteristics of each autistic student are different, Huang Yue said, "Some students like to talk to themselves, are not good at communicating with others, and just 'output' some words by themselves. Now that I get acquainted with this student, he will see me as his communication partner, like entering his 'channel', so that slowly we can communicate. ”

Huang Yue observed at work that some autistic students also like to swipe their mobile phones and watch short videos after work. "From their upbringing, although they have autism, they are adults and have their own emotional needs, and we can't always treat them as children." Huang Yue believes that although the symptoms of autistic people vary from person to person, as long as they find the right way to communicate, there must be a way to communicate better with them.

During the training, Huang Yue once brought an autistic trainee who could not speak clearly. "It was interesting after I got in touch, I gradually understood what he was saying, sometimes he would repeat something, I needed to listen more patiently, and gradually I could guess his state of mind and what he wanted to express."

Today, these autistic students have become part-time baristas in the "Fangtan", serving customers who come and go, and some autistic students have a good memory, can recognize every customer who has come to the store, and will greet customers warmly when they see them again.

At the same time, "Fangtan" has also become a place for parents of autistic people. In addition to picking up and dropping off their children, there are also other parents of autistic people who come to learn about employment practices, and even bring their children directly.

Talking about the next step, Huang Yue called on all sectors of society to care for the growth and development of autistic people, hoping that more caring enterprises and institutions can help autistic people, and finally provide them with employment opportunities by slowly building a sense of trust and cooperation. "For example, there are so many coffee shops in Shanghai, is it possible to let these people go to more coffee shops for internships?"

Huang Yue and the autistic barista cut the cake together to celebrate the second anniversary of the launch of the "Dian Dian Xingyi" employment practice public welfare project for autistic people. Photo by Fan Yubin

Huang Yue said bluntly, "These autistic people have a naïve personality and speak directly. For us in the food industry, it is precisely because of their honesty that they do not cut corners, and there will be no such things as the use of expired milk. ”

After more than a year, Huang Yue also found that the mentality of the parents of these autistic students has also changed. "They see hope in their children's employment practice, and now some parents will learn dim sum and coffee making with their children, and maybe later they will open a shop together, which is good."

Huang Yue hopes to help more autistic people realize their employment dreams and personal values through her own efforts, and looks forward to the sustainable development of this model. "To be honest, after being in contact with the 'children of the stars' for a long time, I will feel that they are actually the same as us." (End)