The bustling streets around MRT Xingtian Temple Station are full of busy office workers and devout worshipers. Everyone has a clear destination, but there is a group of rehabilitated youths whose future, even just the day ahead, is full of confusion and uncertainties. For more than a decade, Bornanew Youth Caring Association has guided tens of thousands of these youths towards a brighter future.
Crime Prevention Helps the Youths
The story of Bornanew Youth Caring Association starts with a group of Christian volunteers spreading the gospel at the Taipei Juvenile Detention House. There, they met many youths who made mistakes, caused by problems at home or making friends with the wrong crowd and saw how these youths still retained hopes and aspirations for their lives. Yet many years later, the volunteers still found them haggard in adult prisons.
“After these youths stepping out of juvie, the first call they receive changes their lives.” Chen Yan-Chun, Director of Bornanew Youth Caring Association recalled that for over 10 years, phone call after phone call, how the association had pulled many youths away from the edge of society. “The association’s job consists of settlement and career guidance, as well as preventing rehabilitated youths from further crime committing, so that prevent them from the adult judicial system after they turn 18 and will inevitably be marked with a criminal record”, said Chen Yan-Chun.
She lamented how these rehabilitated youths are like disoriented children. Though they wanted to escape from the shadows of their pasts, risks came alone as soon as they escaping from juvenile detention. They encountered risks like the absence of family support, or even expulsion and/or recommended transfer from schools, and proper asylum and/or employment. All that means many of these youths can only go back to those they are familiar with, thus returning to the juvie again for committing the same mistakes. Many are trapped in this vicious cycle and struggled to escape.
Aside from helping rehabilitated youths at the front line, Bornanew Youth Caring Association also established 616 Youth Dreamworks, which includes Dream Cafe and Dream Academy, helping these youths cultivate their interests and career development. Dream Cafe serves as a transitional workplace for the rehabilitated youths where they can learn customer services, coffee-brewing, and cooking. The association also actively encourages and guides the youths to obtain certifications in Chinese cuisine or drink mixing, which enables them to possess skills to fit in society.
Career Guidance to Help These Youths Take a Step Toward Their Dreams
Dream Cafe is located in a quiet neighborhood in Zhongshan District in Taipei city. The shop is simply furnished with wooden decoration and is selling light meals, desserts, and coffee. At ten in the morning, the youths gradually arrive to begin their day at work. Currently, there are six rehabilitated youths working at the store.
Xiao Wei (pseudonym) begins his day at Dream Cafe by taking a box of vegetables from the deliveryman. From preparing ingredients to chopping vegetables, Xiao Wei was able to master every task during his six months working at the cafe. He even prepares lunch for other part-time workers during lunch break. Having dropped out of school, Xiao Wei underwent juvenile detention twice for drugs. It wasn’t until his mother threatened to cut ties with him that he finally sobered up. Xiao Wei now goes to extension school at a vocational high school in the morning and works at the cafe in the afternoon. He hopes to get his high school diploma, obtain certification for Chinese cuisine, and become a chef at a hotel.
As a transitional workplace for rehabilitated youths, Dream Cafe gives these youths a steady income and allows them to live a healthier, more disciplined lifestyle. Care from social workers and volunteers effectively gives them emotional support, preventing them from returning to crime. The food industry is best for giving these youths a sense of achievement, Chen Yan-Chun pointed out. During their trial operation, they let the youths personally ask customers how the food was. The feedback helped to improve the dishes, and compliments they received boosting their confidence.
Most parents ask their children to maintain basic responsible attitudes such as being on time for class and work and asking for time off in advance. However, it’s not the case here. These rehabilitated youths had no one to teach them these principles while growing up. In addition, many of these youths lack financial planning skills, often spending all their earnings in less than a week, said individual case manager Lin Li-Fang. So, the association took it upon themselves to open courses in the cafe and teach these youths the correct work attitude and financial planning skills.
“These kids show no interest in studying, but they are actually very smart.” Chen Yan-Chun once encountered a 17-year-old boy that was the mastermind behind an international fraud ring, directing and coordinating over a thousand employees. “If he had applied his intellect in the right place, he could have been the pride of Taiwan.” Observations over years of experience showed members of Bornanew Youth Caring Association that these youths prefer to start their own businesses and be the boss rather than working as an employee. So, the association procured food trucks for the youths to develop their own products, figure out pricing and sales methods, and put their plans in action.
Change Your Sight, Let Us Fly
With Bornanew Youth Caring Association’s hard work, the youths that left Dream Cafe have gradually found their own path in life. Chen Yan-Chun said that one of the youths who worked at Dream Cafe in its first year is now running his own cafe in Shenkeng. Another rented a stall and sells poached chicken, earning a stable income. One of them even stepped outside of the food industry and obtained the qualification as a funeral director, fulfilling his long-time dream.
“It is hard to keep the association running by donations only, especially when it comes to the café shop, labor costs are the highest”, Chen Yan-Chun confided. “By taking part in the Workforce Development Agency’s Multiple Employment Promoting Project, the association is able to pay wages to the youths working at the cafe, even hiring more teenagers in need to fill the labor shortage.” Chen Yan-Chun also talked about how the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) provides Dream Cafe with a consultant to help with marketing, product development, and product design, even introducing clients for them, which is tremendously helpful for a cafe that is just starting out.
In addition to providing assistance in labor costs, subsidies from the WDA also make training for inexperienced youths in food or drink-mixing plausible. The association invites chefs and baristas from five-star hotels to teach the skills they need, not only improving their working performances but also helping them to obtain professional licenses such as the class C certification for Chinese cuisine.
“Kids are often the least lovable when they are in need of love the most.” Chen Yan-Chun hopes that society removes the stigma upon rehabilitated youths, giving them a chance through understanding and empathy instead of rejecting them out of the door. The association takes advantage of how both Dream Cafe and 616 Youth Dreamworks are located near neighborhoods by having the youths clean up the environment, and holds charity music performances to let the public get to know them better.
In March, Dream Cafe held a Better Together event with the nearby Xinsheng Community, inviting elders of the community into the cafe to get free photoshoots, taste the shop’s coffee and tea, and measure their blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. The event attempted to promote interaction between the youths and the community and show the community how these youths are working hard.
Aside from helping rehabilitated youths return to a normal life, Bornanew Youth Caring Association strongly believes that community and family are what influences teenagers the most. In the future, the association hopes to turn 616 Youth Dreamworks into an engine that pumps energy into the community, organizing community events with locals and schools and bringing the community together to gradually create a supporting crowd for teenagers.
The association also hires women in the community that is looking for a second career, hoping that youths can become closer to them. Working together drives rehabilitated or disadvantaged teenagers to interacting and growing along with women in their second careers. And by organizing community events and parenting courses or seminars, the association makes more people willing to provide support for teenagers growing up, widening the support network of communities and society to reduce the chances of children straying from the right path.
Bornanew Youth Caring Association helps nearly a thousand rehabilitated youths in juvenile detention every year, but the association can only provide a handful of job opportunities. Chen Yan-Chun hopes to expand the association’s protective umbrella even further, not only helping these youths to find a steady job but also working from the roots to free them from poverty and help them discover their ambitions for the future.
The image of a tall, flourishing tree is painted on the wall of Dream Cafe, under which a young boy throws a paper airplane towards the blue sky. Bornanew Youth Caring Foundation is like a tall tree, sheltering and helping every rehabilitated youth with a dream to embark on a new life.
▲Chen Yan-Chun hopes to remove society’s stigma against rehabilitated youths so that they can have a chance to redeem themselves while receiving understanding and empathy.
▲Dream Cafe helps rehabilitated youths get a steady salary and lead a healthy lifestyle, preventing them from returning to the cycle of crime.
▲Rehabilitated youths preparing ingredients in the kitchen. The association also provides active guidance to help them get class C certification in Chinese cuisine.
Case Story - Multiple Employment Promoting Project
Chen Yan-Chun and Lin Li-Fang - Bornanew Youth Caring Association
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Please attribute this article to “Workforce Development Agency, Ministry Of Labor”.