Cope Foundation clients John Paul (centre), John (left), and Darren (right) with Cope Foundation staff members Louise McDonald and Rowena Mattock at Roots UCC as it celebrated its 3rd brithday. Photo: Brian Lougheed

Putting down roots for 3 years

A coffee shop providing work experience and employment opportunities for young people with intellectual disabilities has turned 3.

Roots UCC, located in the university’s student centre The Hub, has been a firm favourite with students, staff and locals since it first opened in the spring of 2020. Up to 50 people supported by Cope Foundation have obtained work experience since then with 15 of these securing full time employment as a result of the skills learned at the coffee shop.

It’s 1 of 2 cafes run by Cope Foundation. The first Roots coffee shop opened next to Beech Hill Garden Centre in Montenotte in 2018.

John Paul from Bandon has been part of the team for more than a year and is hoping the skills he’s learned during that time will help him secure full time employment in the workforce.

He said: “Roots UCC is a great place to work, to learn new skills and gain valuable experience. I can now make flat whites and mochas and I’ve made a few friends along the way. I’m currently looking for proper work so hopefully some place will be hiring, they will have a look at my CV, think that it looks good and give me a job.”

Louise McDonald, staff member of Cope Foundation, has been involved with Roots UCC since its inception. She said the coffee shop has overcome the many challenges they were forced to endure during Covid-19 and continues to grow from strength to strength.

She said: “I just want to thank everybody who has worked in the cafe since it first opened for their hard work, perseverance and endurance. It’s been fantastic to see how they’ve all acclimatised to the different jobs and have done so with a smile.

“Roots UCC is a massive part of life in UCC and most of our customers are repeat customers that come back to us every day. This is down to the hard work of the people we support and their personalities and that’s what really brings that extra sparkle to this wonderful little cafe.”

Roots UCC is open from 10am to 3pm, Monday to Friday and the trainees are serving as many as 200 cups of coffee a day during these hours.

Sean Abbott, Chief Executive of Cope Foundation, said: “Roots UCC is a fantastic opportunity for the people supported by Cope Foundation to learn invaluable skills in a busy working environment. Not only are they learning how to make a great cup of coffee but they’re dealing with the public every day and these interactions are so important in their development. I’d like to wish everyone who has come through the work experience process the very best in their efforts to secure full time employment.”