January 26, 2018 Belgrade

The New Café Staffed by Street Children

With training and work placements on offer, Kafe Bar 16 aims to help some of the city’s most disadvantaged youth get paid jobs.

Kafe Bar 16 has successfully attracted so-called ‘digital nomads’ who find the café/bar ideal as a workspace. Photo: Courtesy of Kafe Bar 16

Siri Sollie

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Numerous cafe/bars have come and gone as part of Belgrade’s vibrant day and nightlife. The opening of another is hardly unusual, but Kafe Bar 16 really is unlike any other.

Kafe Bar 16 opened its doors at 46 Gospodar Jovanova in the Dorcol neighbourhood just over a month ago. It is a social enterprise run by the Centre for Youth Integration (Centar za integraciju mladih, CIM) and offers disadvantaged and socially-excluded youth a stepping stone into the labour market.

As the project has just got off the ground, the café currently has just four trainees aged between 16 and 21. All had previous contact with one of two daytime drop-in shelters run by CIM that provide hot meals, clothing and educational programmes to children aged five to 15 who live or work on the streets.

Most of the café trainees are 16 years of age – hence the name of the café. Over 15s are no longer able to use the drop-in shelters’ facilities and the café is an attempt to continue to help vulnerable youth find work and stability.

The current trainees are completing evening school training to prepare them for working in the café. By the end of January, they are expected to undertake their work experience programmes at Kafe Bar 16.

CIM hopes the project will take off and that they will be able to train more youngsters in the future, with any profit made from the venture being ploughed back into the drop-in shelters.

Marko Tosic, executive director of CIM and legal representative of Kafe Bar 16, told BIRN 16-year-olds remain highly vulnerable as they are more of less left to fend for themselves.

“After they turn 16, many of these children will be on the streets and might suffer from many risks,” says Tosic. “The idea of Kafe Bar 16 was to give them skills and in turn provide them with a job.”

Tosic adds that most of the children who use the shelter are members of the highly-disadvantaged Roma community and many are orphans.

Social worker Milan Otasevic has worked for CIM’s Svratiste drop-in shelter in the Zvezdara neighbourhood – the other day shelter is in New Belgrade – for 12 years. He underlines that for some of these children everyday contact with society and routines that most of us take for granted represent an alien, totally unfamiliar world.

“The café is the best place to develop [their] social skills, in the sense to break some barriers in terms of language, learn how to be in contact with people and to offer some new paths in life”, says Otasevic.

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