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THERE’S a new café in Sentul that only serves only three main chicken dishes, selected sides and beverages but it never lacks customers, neither is it void of young energies swooshing about to serve. If you’ve not heard of Project B Café at Sentul Boulevard by now, you should give this unique café a visit at least once. Customers stand mesmerised as the café is run completely by youngsters who belong to the Dignity for Children Foundation — a charity foundation established by Elisha Satvinder 17 years ago to provide quality education for children from the ages of two to 17.
The idea of letting the youngsters run the café is to teach entrepreneurial, leadership, communications and business skills — most valuable set of skills needed in today’s world.— TRP pic by Wan Kah Hoong
The idea of letting the youngsters run the café is to teach entrepreneurial, leadership, communications and business skills — most valuable set of skills needed in today’s world.— TRP pic by Wan Kah Hoong
Project B is basically a charity café that was set up about two months ago by the foundation as means to sustain themselves. Profits made go directly towards managing the needs of the foundation that’s helped transform the lives of up to 3,000 underprivileged children to date. The idea of letting the youngsters run the café is to teach entrepreneurial, leadership, communications and business skills — most valuable set of skills needed in today’s world. Jacqui Walford, the foundation’s communications and fundraising director, said setting up Project B was a big challenge that proved to be fruitful.
Jacqui Walford says the key to a successful project is to connect with like-minded people.— TRP pic by Wan Kah Hoong
Jacqui Walford says the key to a successful project is to connect with like-minded people.— TRP pic by Wan Kah Hoong
Walford, a well-travelled Malaysian, was given the responsibility to raise funds for the café, which in turn keeps the Dignity for Children Foundation going. “You can’t always be giving out, you run out. If you teach them how to fish, you become independent and you break the cycle of poverty,” said Walford a full-time staff who receives a small salary at the foundation. “We need to raise the funds annually to keep the centre going,” elaborated Jacqui. “Fundraising in Malaysia is not as well-structured but basically you need to connect with like-minded people. The words used a lot are donors, or sponsors. We tend to think of them as partners. They understand what we do, want to be involved with us and help us achieve our vision.” With Project B, fundraising for the foundation becomes a norm. Although the cafe only have several dishes exclusively comprising chicken, the premise is never short of patrons. It is apparently so popular that the cafe runs out of food during the first few instances of opening. Many of the clienteles are in their 30s and are often connected on social media — a boon for Walford who admitted to being ‘a traditional PR person’.
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The cafe is never short of patrons.— TRP pic by Wan Kah Hoong
After sampling the food and receiving the services from the students of the foundation, it is evident that Walford and the Dignity Foundation worked hard to make it a success. “The idea of setting up a cafe for training the children took four years. It took us that long because we want to find the correct partners.” Finally, Berjaya Care Foundation and The BIG Group joined the endeavour and provided a shop lot as well as supplies and training to set up the café.
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A kitchen handler preparing Thai chicken wings at the cafe.— TRP pic by Wan Kah Hoong
“It’s been quite a long process and I learned so much,” quipped Walford. After returning from Britain — where she served as fundraiser for Queen Elizabeth Foundation —Walford finds that the charity and fundraising in Malaysia is different from what she’s experienced. “Fundraising in Britain is regulated and it has a charity commission. Here it’s a little loose because it’s new. But I was pleasantly surprised when I came back because everybody is talking about broader fields like CSR (corporate social responsibility). It may not mean the same thing but it is an impetus for opening doors. It’s not that difficult to adjust but the (Asian) customs are different. I’m open and forthright (after many years overseas) and I get a little bit too pushy” smiled Walford. Whatever it is, the cafe is a breath of fresh air in Sentul – and a boon for needy students such as 16-year old Nandini.
Besides picking-up useful skills, Nandini says her stint at the cafe has made her more independent.— TRP pic by Wan Kah Hoong
Besides picking-up useful skills, Nandini says her stint at the cafe has made her more independent.— TRP pic by Wan Kah Hoong
Coming from a broken family, Nandini was adopted into the Dignity for Children foundation by its founders at the tender age of 2, after her parents separated. “I don’t really see this as work. It’s an opportunity for me to learn the skills I need in life. I learned so many things here. Most importantly, I learn to be independent,” said Nandini. At the café, Nandini is responsible for the counter, serving customers and keeping the café clean. Through the foundation, which basically equip students with vocational skills, Nandini managed to pick up and study artistic skills like singing, acting and playing musical instruments. “I thought of doing social work, and maybe hospitality,” said Nandini on her ambition one day. Watch the video:

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