KUALA LUMPUR: Youths from underprivileged communities have their work cut out for them when it comes to surviving in today’s dog-eat-dog world.
And that is precisely why Faridah Halina Zairi created Coffee for Good (CFG), a “socially-conscious business” that provides barista training for marginalised youths.
With the skill sets that they learn from CFG, it is her hope that those from B40 communities and other underprivileged youths can better secure a good job in the food and beverage industry.
“I wanted to start not just a normal business, but one that can give back to the community in some way,” Faridah, 47, told FMT Lifestyle.
For example, some of these youths’ parents work from morning to night, and have no time to talk to or guide their children, she said. The majority live in the public housing project (Program Perumahan Rakyat). So the people at CFG help fill this gap.
“Other than that, we also guide students who have completed their secondary school but don’t know what to do next. As long as they fit our criteria and are willing to learn, we welcome them,” she said.
Given that the training is free and includes an allowance, Faridah vets all applications carefully to ensure that only truly deserving youths are selected for the training.
She recalled the incident of a young man with learning difficulties who benefitted greatly from CFG’s training programme.
She said that part of this 19-year-old’s training involved sharing his experience with others. It was his first attempt at public speaking and he was understandably a bag of nerves.
“He’s now 28 and working in Bangkok as a barista! He went from speaking broken English to being proficient in the language now,” she said.
As much as everything “coffee” is central to her life now, Faridah only acquired the taste for this beverage in her university days. Today, she is rarely seen without a coffee cup in her hand.
In fact, she was so fascinated about how to brew the perfect cup that she would often chat with baristas in cafés. She said she learned so much about coffee-making from them.
She is thankful that many of them were happy to share the secrets of their trade. It was also through these interactions that she realised virtually anyone could become a barista if they so wished. Ironically, many of the baristas she spoke to were white-collar professionals like engineers and teachers.
She followed her passion for coffee by taking a coffee-making workshop in Australia in 2015. When she was retrenched the following month, she decided to start Coffee for Good.
With just one coffee machine at her disposal, CFG began participating in pop-up events, opening kiosks in different locations in the Klang Valley. She later ventured into catering.
Through it all, Faridah stayed true to her goal of providing barista training to youths who needed it the most, hiring them later to work at events CFG participated in. These youths also included those with Down Syndrome, who were tasked with operating their own kiosks, a form of on-the-job training.
However, the pandemic threw a spanner in the works, and Faridah was left with no choice but to shut down every single one of her kiosks, with the last one ceasing operations in January last year.
“For this year, I’m focussing on barista-training only. I’ll work with other like-minded NGOs or social enterprises for the business ventures, instead of doing it on my own. That was too taxing.”
Feeling disappointed and overwhelmed by the closure of all the kiosks, she took a break from business last year to give her mental health a reboot.
“If I want to help others, I have to take care of myself first. That’s what I learnt,” she said, smiling.