St Mark’s Community Centre, based in Newham, East London has opened the borough’s first ever deaf café.
Café No.43 is run by Luca Cusini, an Italian chef with impaired hearing who grew up with the dream of one day running his own eatery. Despite the barriers Luca has faced, St Mark’s Community Centre which is managed by Caritas Anchor House, a homelessness and social action charity, has supported Luca to realise this dream. Café No. 43 opened in January 2017 and so far, has been a great success.
As well as serving sandwiches and hot drinks to members of both the deaf and hearing community, Luca will offer catering training for deaf and hearing impaired people who would like to work in the industry. Luca takes great pride in his work and serving food to happy customers is a delight to him. Speaking via an interpreter, Luca said “I focus on the colours and how to present the food and I like to see when people like [it]. It makes me proud. I have energy so I will succeed”.
Café No. 43 is part of an array of services which St Marks’s offers to members of the public, and is the second one to benefit the deaf community. The centre also runs a Friends Deaf Club, launched in 2015, which provides deaf and hearing people who sign the opportunity to socialise. In addition, the club offers advice, holds awareness days and when it was launched was the first of its kind in Newham.
St Mark’s also offers after-school clubs to support working parents, baby sensory classes, sports and fitness classes to promote healthy living and access to a food bank for those living in poverty. Keith Fernett, Chief Executive of Caritas Anchor House, said “I am delighted to see that with the support of our community centre, Luca has broken down barriers and realised his dreams.
“Through Caritas Anchor House’s management of St Mark’s, we have helped develop its support services for all members of the community, particularly for those who are vulnerable and marginalised.”