From service crew to co-leading a cafe: What empowering Persons with Disabilities to take charge looks like

It’s been a year since we started operations at Foreword Coffee Roasters @ Canberra Plaza. To commemorate this special occasion, we sat Carmen Tan and Josiah Yeap down where they shared their journeys over the past year.

Carmen and Josiah are our baristas currently training to co-lead our social enterprise cafe in Canberra Plaza.

Josiah (left) and Carmen at Foreword Coffee Roasters @ Canberra Plaza.


Please introduce yourself!

Josiah: Hi my name is Josiah and I’ve been working in Foreword for three plus years. I mainly do cashiering, food, coffee and latte art. 

Carmen: Hi my name is Carmen. I’ve stayed with Foreword for three to four years already. Similar to Josiah, I do cashiering, sidebar station, food and espresso.


What’s a fun fact about yourself?

Josiah: I like to clean so some of my hobbies include helping my mum with housework, other times I like to relax and watch TV. I particularly like MasterChef.

Carmen: I like MRTs, especially the models C151C and CT251. I like this station (Canberra MRT station) because it has a lot of C151C. I like the Canberra platform door also, it looks like Thomson-East Coast Line platform door. 


How does your typical day look like?

Josiah: If I work full day, I will just go back for dinner and rest already. But if I work half day shift, I will go back home for lunch, take a nap and have dinner. 

Carmen: Because now I work a full day shift, it’s hard to find time for my MRT hobby. But if we wash faster, teamwork and close earlier, we can knock off earlier, then I can have MRT time.


Is there a particular station you like to do in the cafe?

Carmen: I like to take orders. Sometimes when it’s busy it can be quite fun. It’s like playing (restaurant) games on phone, I need to remember to cross out orders when they are done. I found this idea (crossing out) myself and helps me to cope when there is a crowd.


How do you cope with stress and frustration at work?

Carmen: I go for a short break, look at train (pictures) and talk to someone.

Josiah: If I am stressed, I try to remain calm and do the orders. I then tell customers that I will take a bit longer to get their orders out. 

Carmen having her break during her full-day shift.


How is training to co-lead an outlet different from working as a service crew?

Josiah: We need to take on more responsibilities like doing stock take and food preparation. We also need to help support the newer crew.

Josiah weighing and making a hot chocolate.


What have you been learning from Victor (cafe supervisor)?

Carmen: All the skills like (making) sandwiches, solve machine problems. Sometimes the espresso machine and food delivery apps will hang. I text Victor for help then he help me to understand the problem. When the same thing happened again, I know what to do the second time.

Josiah: And how to do waffles, ham and cheese croissant and drinks!

Carmen preparing the ham and cheese croissant.


Name one strength of each other.

Josiah: For Carmen, her strength is she can do food preparation like waffles and sandwiches very well!

Carmen: He can talk very well to customers. Our strength is also we can teamwork well!

A typical teamwork scene - Josiah preparing drinks while Carmen is taking care of food orders.


What is one challenge you have overcome over the past 1 year?

Josiah: Making waffles. We need to weigh ingredients properly for waffles. If we overshoot the weight, the waffles may not cook thoroughly and it’s wasted. Victor and Melvin taught me how to do this properly.


What is one challenge you’re working on now?

Josiah: For me it’s how to cut sandwiches properly, it’s something I still find it difficult to do.

Carmen: I’m still learning how to refund money for wrong orders.


What is your dream?

Josiah: My dream is that we can work well together here and guide the newcomers on cafe operations.

Carmen: A team leader!

A set of hot chocolate and ham & cheese croissant prepared by Josiah and Carmen.


Surprise! Flash this article at Foreword Coffee Roasters @ Canberra Plaza on 27 - 28 Feb to enjoy 10% off food and drinks, with min. spend of $10.

Written by Foreword Coffee Roasters