If you are already living in Leeuwarden you might have heard of the Brownies & downieS café right at the edge of the centre of the city, with a beautiful view on the gracht (canal) and the park close by. I asked myself what the café actually stands for and met the 25 year old Robin Alkema, one of the owners of the café, to get a little insight on what makes this place so special.
By: Lydia Liersch
A special concept
The concept of Brownies & downieS is widely used in the Netherlands and also in other countries such as South Africa. Together with his parents, Robin opened another cafe in October 2017 in Leeuwarden. The café works together with people with disabilities such as Down syndrome and autism and therefore, serves the purpose of integrating those special employees in our daily lives. As Robin puts it, Brownies & downieS´s approach is to do it differently than it is normally accepted in today´s environment and accomplish the same as other companies. By bringing this concept to Leeuwarden he hopes to help, inspire and provide a different perspective not only for the employees but also for the ones visiting the café.
“Pure is perfect”
They carry the message “Pure is perfect”, which applies to the food as well as to the special employees. Firstly, their motto is linked with their served food as it stands for their freshly made and qualitative food. But more importantly, it emphasizes on the people they work with and the atmosphere they are trying to convey. In terms of their special employees he explains: “What you see is what you get”. What is meant with this is that when working with these special employees you never see a second layer, never see them wearing a mask as they show their true emotions. If someone feels emotional or bad, they show it, they don´t try to cover it up. Their pureness reflects in a happy, kind, informal and lovable atmosphere, which as Robin describes, “makes it very nice to work with those people. It is lovely. Their emotional level is higher, emotionally you can learn a lot from them.”
In contrast to other cafes, they do breakfast together every morning, talk about the day and about what their tasks are going to be. Robin compliments the employees and describes them as very punctual, that they always show up and never talk in a negative way. Furthermore, this positive environment gets strengthened by special activities organized at the café itself, where guests and employees can bond or by doing trips to various destinations such as Armeland or Efteling. Besides, every year a sports-day is organized where all Brownies & downieS employees from 52 different places come together and participate in sport activities.
Places like Brownies & Downies show that it is possible and even beneficial to integrate these special kinds of people in our daily lives. You could feel the positive atmosphere the moment you walked in. Therefore, Robin expressed that it is important to integrate people with disabilities in all sorts of jobs, to offer them the chance to follow their dreams and preferences. He hopes that one day it becomes more socially accepted, even though he knows that you need to invest more time when working with special employees. Anyhow, the positive sides overrule the time aspect as it would be beneficial for every company as they spread positivity and personality with everyone. You come to work, get a big hug, a kiss and are welcomed with a big smile.