“If you’re in the luckiest one per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.” – Warren Buffet
In crisp white aprons and sporting the manners of the elite, you would never believe that the bright faces that greet you with your exquisite food at Café Toto in Kolkata ever had a dark past. Disabled, domestically abused and abandoned, children from across the many streets of the city have found a safe haven in this famous French café situated in Chetla, near New Alipore, in South Kolkata.
Image credits: ambafrance-in.org
Café Toto, known for its exotic desserts and European cuisine, functions as a ‘Restaurants-School’, where young adults from difficult, underprivileged backgrounds are trained to become entrepreneurs. The venture is the result of the combined efforts of NGO Tomorrow’s Foundation and the French NGO Life Project 4 Youth (LP4Y) accompanied by assistance from the French Consulate in Kolkata.
These young adults, who have had to experience more than their share of dark times for their age, are picking up entrepreneurial traits quite enthusiastically. Other than the professional training they receive from the volunteers, they are also learning the tricks of the trade on the job daily.
“We are now training 14 youngsters aged between 18-24 years in a one-year course divided into three sections spanning five days a week, where they learn English, IT skills, communication, personal skills and a micro-economic activity, which, in Toto's case, is cooking,” Constance, a volunteer from France and the presiding Coach for the project, told IANS.
Café Toto, which was launched earlier this year on 29 April, has a holistic vegetarian menu that includes mostly famous European and French dishes and is open to the public around two or three times a week for lunch purposes only. The small café in the corner of Chetla can room up to 20 people at a time and takes in reservations on a 24-hour basis for the purpose of serving only ‘fresh food’. Recently, they have even begun a home-delivery service.
Running an independent restaurant-chain business is the perfect way to train these impressionable young adults the ways of managing a small business and playing the right cards in decision-making to become successful entrepreneurs. They are taught about the daily sales expected, the most-sellable dishes for recommendations and the target audience they hope to attract.
According to Constance, most of their customers are foreign travellers and volunteers from European countries who crave a bit of their national food. Hence, the need to speak fluent English and French and to convince the customers to buy their meals is part of the primary training of these volunteers, who hope that these children will take what they learn here and maybe start a business of their own someday.
The trainees are all young adults at an age where they can be trained to work diligently and committedly. Since almost all of them are from troubled, below-income backgrounds, the café acts as a sanctuary to these trainees, who are employed in their services and are hence managing an income and being taught how to ensure sufficient savings as well.
These young adults, who are being given a second chance at life and fortune, are determined to take charge of their lives and make full use of a free education and training in one of the most pertinent trades in the field. Currently, the café is concentrating more on their training than sales. However, once the different levels of training are completed, they will be open for more days in the week.
This is no small initiative in the favour of these children, whose futures were once both predictable and bleak. It is a stepping stone into a social movement that is starting to turn heads and make those in power feel responsible. It is sure to go a long way in transforming the lives of these young adults for the better. We look forward to more stories like these that are guaranteed to make your day, too!