Gaza restaurant gives deaf a chance to shine

Updated 10 January 2013
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Gaza restaurant gives deaf a chance to shine

At first glance, the Atfaluna restaurant in Gaza City looks like any other — a space for locals to enjoy a simple meal. But there’s a difference: Nearly all its staff are deaf.
Inside, customers chat to each other and scan the menu, but when it comes to ordering, their requests are taken down by waiters who communicate in sign language, and their meals are all cooked by deaf chefs.
It’s a one-of-a-kind concept in Gaza and the brainchild of a local organization called Atfaluna — Arabic for ‘Our Children’ — which works to improve the lives of the territory’s deaf.
The project has the twin goals of raising awareness about the needs and capabilities of the deaf, while giving the community a way to earn a living in a place where unemployment stands at 45 percent.
Ahmed Dahman, expressing himself shyly through a sign language translator, described how working at the restaurant has changed his life.
“It gave me a sense of security regarding my future and self-dependency because job opportunities were virtually non-existent before this,” he said.
“We’ve seen a lot of support and cooperation from people,” he told AFP. “A lot of them expressed their interest in learning sign language.”
For Dahman and others employed at the restaurant, where sign language letters decorate the walls, Atfaluna is a rare opportunity for work.
Until a few months ago, education opportunities for the deaf in Gaza only ran to ninth grade, with no secondary or university level education available.
A new secondary school has just opened, and Atfaluna is working with universities to make courses available for the deaf, but most working-age members of the community find themselves with few marketable skills.
“There is a real shortage of jobs for deaf people in Gaza. Of course they are at a big disadvantage because of the educational shortages,” Dalia Abu Amr of the Atfaluna organization told AFP.
Diners enter through an elaborate arabesque doorway above which hangs the restaurant’s name written in white on a black background — in English, Arabic and sign language.
Inside, a hostess in a traditionally-embroidered Palestinian gown guides people to their table. Handicrafts made in Atfaluna’s job creation programmes are also available for sale.
The fare on offer ranges from from Middle Eastern staples like hummus and baba ghanouj to fried fish, chicken or curry dishes.
“We came here to see the place,” said Shahd Al-Iyla, a 21-year-old student dining with a friend. “It was nice, we would love to come here to offer moral support, so we will come again.”
Abu Amr said 12 of the restaurant’s 14 staff are deaf. The only exceptions are the chef and the accountant, who answers the phone to take reservations and delivery orders.
“The team of 12 deaf workers received culinary and hospitality training,” Abu Amr told AFP. The project hopes “to assimilate the deaf in Gaza into society and provide them with work opportunities.”
Around 1.5 percent of Gazans over the age of five have some form of hearing disability, according to Atfaluna, but the disability still carries a stigma.
“No one welcomes the idea of a deaf person working in Gaza,” said 35-year-old Niveen Al-Quqa, as she garnished a dish about to leave the kitchen.
She took art classes and sewing lessons in a bid to find work, but until the restaurant opened, she had had no success.
Now she is one of five women employed at Atfaluna — four in the kitchen and one working as a waitress.
“I am looking forward to improving my culinary skills so my colleagues and I can prove ourselves, despite our disability. I am very happy now,” she added with a smile.
The restaurant’s chef, 30-year-old Hassan Addabus, hovered nearby as his charges worked, giving them pointers on their technique in sign language.
“I have been doing this for 10 years and it was always about doing a job I love, but today it means much more than that,” he told AFP.
“It has a moral and human significance because of the support it offers to people with disabilities in our society who deserve all of our help.”
Amina Al-Omari, 22, also hard at work in the kitchen, said the job had given her a new sense of self.
“Society has no idea about our needs,” she explained.
“I felt subject to injustice and oppression because of this, but those feelings started to fade away after I started working here and becoming independent.
“We are capable of proving our skills and excellence. We might be deaf, but we have a lot of potential.”


Saudi food app is perfect recipe for people in need

Updated 19 May 2018
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Saudi food app is perfect recipe for people in need

JEDDAH: A Saudi relationship manager has designed a mobile app that allows food to be delivered to people in need, including Syrian refugees living in camps in Lebanon and Turkey.
Western region manager Fahad bin Thabit, 34, described his YummCloud app as a “sharing economy” platform.
After working with app developers from India, Ukraine and the US, Thabit launched the platform in late April with help from the US digital agency Ingic.
YummCloud was featured in US company news, such as Cision PRWeb.
“The idea behind YummCloud was to provide home-cooked meals to the users in the most convenient way,” Cision PRWeb said.
“Developers were told to develop an open platform app that will let users buy, sell or send home-cooked meals around them. All a user has to do is to choose the food they would like to eat and get it delivered at their convenience.”
Thabit said that his brother, who lives in France, was the inadvertent inspiration behind the app.
“At that time I wanted to send him food and that was when I had the idea: Why can’t I send him local food?
“I could not find any of our local food there, and this was how the application came up. I said once I can do that, I can send food to anyone anywhere in the world — all I need to do is provide the supplier,” Thabit told Arab News.
Anyone can help communities in need via the application, he said.
Thabit said he was planning to help Syrian refugees in Turkey.
“We call these meals ‘humanitarian meals’ — all we need to do is reach them via a social network and get a supplier there. People who sympathize with the refugees — they could be 100 kilometers away or in different parts of the world — can pay online and buy meals for them.”
He said whole communities could take part in the “sharing economy.”
“For example, in Africa, there are areas that have people suffering from starvation, but there are other areas that have food supplies, so if you buy the supplies from those areas, they can import them to the starvation-stricken areas. This is what I call a sharing economy.”
The app’s international features are still under development, but are expected to launch in two years.
“We can create a market anywhere in the world. All we need to do is add a language, find a delivery company there, and if there isn’t one, people can deliver it themselves.
“We had 500 orders in the first 10 days of the launch in Saudi Arabia.”
Thabit said that transportation network company Careem was acting as a logistics partner.
“Careem have us covered everywhere — it is operating in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Egypt. Wherever Careem is present, we are there regarding delivery,” he said.
Thabit said he had agreements with delivery companies and charities in different parts of the world for YummCloud’s global transition.
The application is an efficient humanitarian platform.
“We provide a platform for everyone to help everyone,” he said.