28 May 2018

The bittersweet taste of coffee in Belgrade's Kafe Bar 16

The Center for Youth Integration opened a social coffee bar enterprise in the Serbian capital to train disadvantaged youngsters to become waiters, waitresses and barmen, giving them skills for possible employment. 

Lidija Pisker
Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Balkans
The bittersweet taste of coffee in Belgrade's Kafe Bar 16 - NewsMavens
Kafe Bar 16, Facebook

Why this story matters:

As soon as I visit Belgrade again, I will go for a coffee in Kafe Bar 16. The idea is a noble one and I would like to see it growing. Which is one of the reasons why I'm writing about it. 

But there's another reason. I can't help but wonder how sustainable these efforts are, and why others have to step in instead of local authorities to make the lives of street children easier? 

There are numerous children and youths living and working in the streets of Belgrade (and the whole country) in need of food, shelter and continuous support. Help so far has been mostly non-institutional, since civil society organizations do majority of the work. 

The drop-in shelter for children living and working in the streets, run by the same organization that opened Kafe Bar 16, is financed by foreign donations. 

The situation is similar in countries throughout the Balkans. In the case of shelters for victims of domestic violence in Kosovo, soup kitchen for children in Bosnia and numerous other social services -- civil society gets the money from abroad hoping that local governments will recognize the importance of good models and take over their financing.

Yet, they rarely do. 

Kafe Bar 16 is one of the rare places where disadvantaged teenagers older than 15 are welcome. And its future depends on the capacities of the Center for Youth Integration to maintain it. 

That's why I assume the coffee I'll have here will have a bittersweet taste. 

Details from the story:

  • Kafe Bar 16 is a social enterprise established by the youth association Center for Youth Integration (Centar za integraciju mladih, CIM). 
  • It offers in-service training for disadvantaged and socially-excluded youth, most of whom use or have used the services of the drop-in shelter.
  • The drop-in shelter provides hot meals, clothing and educational programs to children aged five to 15 who live or work on the streets of Belgrade. Most of the young beneficiaries of drop-in shelters live in extreme poverty. 
  • Most of the trainees at the coffee bar project are 16 years old, which is the reason why the bar is called "16." Street children older than 15 are no longer able to use drop-in shelters. 
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