By Nasibu Mahinya
Neema restaurant located in Iringa town are served by run and staffed by deaf people with one non-deaf, physically disabled person on the till.
The main reason for the establishment of such a restaurant was to showcase the skills of young deaf people, to demonstrate how easy communication with deaf people can be, and to challenge negative attitudes towards them. As well as bringing people from all sections of society into their centre.
The restaurant challenges people to communicate in a different way with their waiter or waitress to place their order.
Neema Cafe is a home of an award-winning cafe called ‘Neema Crafts’ .
Yes, they are deaf and to help you make your order they have signs on the walls of the restaurant.
The café is part of a centre which was founded in 2003 by the Diocese of Ruaha, to provide training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Iringa region of Tanzania.
There’s a great stigma attached to having a disability in Tanzania, and the centre provides dignity and hope for many people who previously relied on street begging or were hidden away at home.
William who is a waiter at the restaurant, recalls, “I had no friAends, I was denied employment and getting low wages for working in gardens but now I have many friends.”
The café has a rating of 4/5 on travel site www.tripadvisor.com.
“They will take your order either you use signs or speak to them, they will look at the way your lips move and they won’t mistake your order,” one customer said.
Apart from a café, the centre has eight craft workshop areas, a therapy unit for disabled children, a conference centre entirely staffed by deaf people and a welcoming guest house jointly run by the local Mother’s Union.