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PossAbilities Café opens its doors to the public

Photos by Fabio Barralé

The PossAbilities Café opened its doors recently as the charity continues its work to support members of Gibraltar’s neurodiverse community through ‘Supported Employment” positions.

The new cafe is dedicated to providing vocational training and employment opportunities for individuals while creating an inclusive environment that promotes integration and empowerment.

The café itself had been built during the works being carried out to transform the former St Martin’s School into PossAbilities’ Support Centre. This was done to avoid disruptions to members.

The PossAbilities Support Centre has an array of bespoke and specialist services for persons who are pending, or in receipt, of a diagnosis - for those with disabilities and the neurodiverse community. It is open seven days a week. These services include recreational, social and leisure activities, along with educational, vocational and social opportunities. There are also support therapy provisions that will complement the work already being carried out by local professionals.

While the centre opened last year, the café is now open thanks to sponsorship from the Kusuma Trust.

"We wanted to ensure that the premises were perfect to build on vocational training, employment opportunities, and learning experiences. It's crucial for us to make the environment beneficial, constructive, adapted, and inclusive,” said Nicole Buckley, the Managing Director of PossAbilities.

There are seven members working at the café, five of whom are in supported employment.

All supported employment individuals are overseen by trained job coaches under the Ministry of Equality.

The café first had a soft launch, allowing the staff to become familiar to their new roles gradually. This ensured that employees could ease into their responsibilities without the pressure of an immediate influx of customers.

“The heart of the project is to create the vocational training and employment experiences for individuals’ supported needs and disabilities, giving them the opportunity to work on site should they want to, whether that be in the cafeteria, or in PossAbilities in any role because we like to work with a person-centred approach, which is very important to adopt,” said Ms Buckley.

“But we also want to offer opportunities here at the cafeteria that allow individuals to gain experience, whether again, here at the cafeteria on site, or to branch into the community.”

“We don't want PossAbilities to be seen as a place of isolation, we don't want it to be just at PossAbilities. We want PossAbilities to lead by example.”
“And we want PossAbilities to be able to branch and bridge into the community.”

“We advocate and we empower inclusion and integration and pair those,” she added.

Another goal is to “break down ableist behaviour” and empower the voices of the people who live the experience.

“We want to make sure that we listen and empower persons with disabilities who have lived experience. The best way we can do that is to listen to those voices, to listen to our communication and put those individuals with lived experience at the centre of those decisions,” she said.

“It would be wrong of us and it would be ableist behaviour if we spoke on behalf of people.”

PossAbilities is also gearing up for its largest summer camp yet, with 112 members signed up and 135 staff members ready to support them.

The camp, running from July 10 to August 23, will have a variety of activities, including dolphin trips, beach outings, gardening, animal care, canoeing, art, dance, drama, jujitsu, fitness, sensory play, and music. All activities are designed to be inclusive and adaptable for all abilities.

The summer camp is accessible to everyone, and is not free. However, there are provisions for reduced rates and waived fees for families in need.

"We do not impose barriers on anyone. We want to ensure that everyone who needs it has the opportunity to participate," said Ms Buckley.

The rise in diagnoses of supported needs and disabilities within the community was also noted and attributed to better diagnostic pathways, increased awareness, and a more accepting society. PossAbilities aims to use this information constructively to advocate for the necessary services and resources, ensuring that neurodiversity is embraced and supported in Gibraltar.

Ms Buckley and the team at PossAbilities invite the community to visit the new café, open Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 2 PM, for breakfast, lunch, or a coffee. Pets are welcome, adding to the inclusive and friendly atmosphere. "We want everyone to feel part of this initiative. It's about creating opportunities and breaking down barriers," she said.

PossAbilities is a nonprofit organisation, all moneys raised go straight to the charity.

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