“I have a son with some learning difficulties, so I’m often on Google searching for the best employment opportunities for him,” says Chris Lombardo, executive officer at The Bridge, a not-for-profit that offers vocational training, childcare and other community services in Preston and Thornbury. “I stumbled across Bitty and Beau’s – a cafe in the States that provides practical hospitality training for a disadvantaged community – and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, if I could do something similar here with The Bridge, I’d retire a happy woman’.”
Moon Rabbit opened earlier this month at the front of The Bridge’s headquarters in Preston. It sells jaffles, house-made slices and Padre coffee. It’s also environmentally responsible and supports the local community.
The cafe trains young people with learning and other disabilities. A 26-week pilot program sees six students rotate through one- to two-hour shifts that complement the classroom training they get at The Bridge.
“One young man initially was very reserved coming into the program and his dad was concerned he wouldn’t stay engaged,” Lombardo says. “So far he hasn’t missed a day. He’s removed his beanie, is standing tall and after his first shift he wouldn’t stop talking.
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