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Rome Reports

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Café Joyeux, more than a job opportunity for young people with Down syndrome or autism

A cup of coffee, a smile and an opportunity are the ingredients of Café Joyeux's recipe. With hard work these young people with disabilities give the best of themselves to this project.

The idea to open these venues came to their founder, Yann, almost by chance.

Founder of Café Joyeux

“One day an autistic 20-year-old asked me for work. I told him I had no work to offer him. He had come to me very happy and excited, but when I told him that, he was very sad and angry. He told me, 'It's not fair, because I want a job. I would like to be useful. I can be useful. So someone has to give me a job.”

The entrepreneur was struck by these words. He started this initiative, which is much more than a first job for these young people.

Founder of Café Joyeux

“Those people do an excellent job. They cook, they serve and they're proud of what they do, because thanks to their work, they rediscover their dignity, because they earn a salary. They all work in the heart of the city, where there are good, modern and sophisticated restaurants, because they deserve to work in a beautiful place.”

Vianney-Marie was the first “Joyeux assistant” in these cafes. That's why he had the honor of giving the pope a bag of roasted coffee on behalf of the Café Joyeux family.

They traveled to Rome for this encounter Pope Francis held with young French entrepreneurs.

Employee of Café Joyeux

“It was very moving. I like the pope's simplicity.”

Yann has opened three Café Joyeux where one in every four employees have Down syndrome or autism.

The idea is to extend the initiative to all of France and beyond, because he knows these places can send a powerful message.

Founder of Café Joyeux

“Many people with mental disabilities are set apart because we are afraid of them.”

“When I see these young people, how they progress and learn, it is actually us who learn and progress. We learn simply that life is beautiful, because life, when it accepts fragility, when it accepts that the other is different or has a disability, it makes you discover the beauty of life.”

“We learn what I think is a powerful message. It is the message of Christ, that is, the message of love through the smallest among us.”

A simple idea like a cafe has turned into an extraordinary example showing there is no boundary that can't be brought down with love and a little help.

Ángeles Conde
Translation: Claudia Torres