Being told I’m dumb for working in the cafe world since I am deaf, has not stopped me from doing my best for customers, helping them change their mindsets and bringing hope to those who feel like there’s no hope.
My name is Julianne Russ, I am 28 years old and manage Co’Ed Cafe on Kings in Lower Hutt. I am profoundly deaf, which means I can’t hear at all but I can lipread and wear a cochlear implant. These help SO much and have given me the confidence to serve customers and not panic. I still have my moments where I have to ask customers three times what they have said! But overall I have found that our beloved country, New Zealand, is patient and understanding and lets me try my best for them.
I used to think, “what am I doing working in a cafe when I could be a builder or help people overseas and build them houses as I love to help people?”. But since I love making coffee I’ve never left that world and have worked with coffee for more than 15 years now.
I have come to realise that I CAN make a difference through coffee!
I have seen hope rise within not only deaf people but people who have lost all confidence in themselves and believe that they can’t be good at anything, through the work of my amazing bosses who have gone the extra mile to spend time to teach anyone and everyone about coffee because they believe anyone can do it!
So I have been privileged to help and teach a variety of people with differing abilities, not only to make coffee but to communicate and understand customers, which helps to remove misunderstanding between cultures and reminds people that we are all the same! It’s all about understanding one another and that people do things differently and there’s no right or wrong!
Through coffee and customer service I have found hope in myself and realise that I can be a part of whatever community I choose to be a part of.
It is OK to be confused or not understand but we can learn from one another and accept one another as we are. That’s where it all started with coffee for me!
Julz is the manager at Co’Ed Cafe on Kings in Lower Hutt in Wellington, New Zealand. For more about barista and cafe training for people with differing abilities, check out Coffee Educators online now.
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