Fairmarch is proud to kickstart a series “Let’s Be Friends”. It is a series of interviews and stories from friends of different backgrounds and different abilities. Just imagine having a cup of coffee (or any preferred beverage!) with a friend on a relaxing afternoon and asking them “How are you today?”
These stories will give you a closer peek at our friends’ lives and experience a snippet of their routines.
“Let’s Be Friends” aims to provide a comfortable, cosy space for all of us to learn and form personal perspectives on how society can aim to be kinder and even more inclusive.
The first series touches on the topic of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Expect interviews of 3 friends- a friend with autism, another who hires and lastly, one who is a mum to a daughter on the spectrum. If you are ready, read on!
From a friend,
“I Love Coffee!”
Let’s Be Friends with Nicholas from Foreword Coffee!
Nicholas’ morning call made my early rise on a Circuit Breaker lockdown morning completely worth it. What surprised me was knowing the purpose of this video call prior, he maturely assured me that he was open to share anything that he knew about autism. There was nothing too sensitive and he will do his best.
And best he really did! With parts of the call sprinkled with him asking his grandmother (in perfect Hokkien, to my envy) not to interrupt this call that his bosses assigned him to and not forgetting to praise his bosses throughout the conversation. (Holler to Nadi and Wei Jie! Give this guy an award already!)
Morning Nicholas, could you tell our readers a little more about yourself?
Hi I am Nicholas, I am 24 years old and I am a service crew at Foreword Coffee. Foreword Coffee is a social enterprise that trains and hires people with special needs, who are deaf or with cerebral palsy. I have been working here since January 2018.
It has been 2 years! What do you do there?
I started as a barista. I was trained by a deaf manager, Jimmy. Now I am a part time Service Crew. I make coffee but only espresso as I am still learning how to add milk into the drinks. Hopefully now that CB (Circuit Breaker) is over, I can go through training and start making coffee with milk.
Actually, can you hold on? Let me take something. *rushes off to grab a badge*
I have this badge with my name and the words “Service Crew”. If I am disobedient, which I have been before, Wei Jie (Founder of Foreword Coffee) will confiscate my badge for a few days and I will need to earn it back. It makes me work hard.
Nice badge, you must be proud to own one! Besides having that, what else do you enjoy most working here? And what keeps you going?
I love to froth milk and make coffee art. I want to learn latte art as people always praise the art when they drink the coffee.
I love it when people appreciate us. They chat with us and tell us they enjoy our coffee. They show appreciation by finishing up our coffee and pastries. Then I know I did a good job. I love being at events too, it lets me talk to different people.
I love both of my bosses too. You have to say I like both Nadi and Wei Jie, you have to be fair! They are young bosses who teach me a lot and are firm with me.
I’m glad to hear that people show appreciation. I will always remember to drink up my coffee now! Now, tell us honestly, do you love coffee?
I love coffee! I love it the most because my family enjoys coffee too. It started years ago when my sister and my mum tried coffee from an espresso machine, and they loved it so much. After that, I started liking it too.
So, was that espresso coffee or Foreword Coffee tastier?
(Without hesitation) Of course Foreword Coffee!
I will let your bosses know for sure! Besides your bosses, any favourite colleagues?
I have a ‘shifu’(teacher), Keith. He is a barista and he taught me a lot about milk. I have learnt a lot from him, and he is like a big brother. We get to joke around and have fun, and he always smiles at me. But when he is firm, he is very serious. Because of him, I get to teach a new colleague, Rachael now.
Great, Nicholas now I need you to give your expert advice for the following situations. Firstly, what would you tell someone who wants to know more about autism?
Autism is like the marvel comic, Venom. It is like I have the black Venom stuck onto me. I cannot pluck it out and it controls me. I do not like it. It makes me do funny actions sometimes. But, I am better now. My father and I are learning to be patient and that things will be better.
Autism is having special needs. We have different strengths and struggles. In the past, I will hog items like water bottles in my bag. I will be very angry if anyone touches my bag. But now I am learning to let go and not be angry with my family.
What about friends with autism who want to work at a café, what advice would you give them?
Never give up! If you want to work at Foreword Coffee, keep talking to my bosses. Ask your parents to talk to them. Show a good learning attitude, and you must remember to use a notebook to take down notes.
You are right and that is great advice. Now lastly, what is your advice to bosses of your friends with autism?
- Be patient
- Be polite
- Must have love for people with special needs
Be like my bosses.
What do you see yourself in 5 years?
A manager of the events team and earn a badge that says ‘Manager’. But I still need to prove my capabilities first.
Thanks so much Nicholas! I enjoyed myself chatting with you. Do you have any last words to add?
I want to thank my bosses Nadi (on the far left) & Wei Jie (on the far right) for being so kind and patient and accepting me. For choosing me even after knowing my personality and even though sometimes my attitude sucks. Now that you are acquainted with Nicholas and Foreword Coffee, it is time to support them! More about Foreword Coffee can be found here. You can read up about the many amazing things they do, follow them on their socials, visit their cafes or make some purchases online!
You can also shop conveniently at Fairmarch – your one-stop online shop where you can find other social enterprises too! Shop away!
By Fairmarch Volunteer Writer, Valerie Ong