The Willow Bean Café is a unique place that provides individuals living with mental illness opportunities for supported employment training and competitive work as baristas. Dedicated to mental health and wellness in the community, this social enterprise is a partnership between Sodexo, the Canadian Mental Health Association (Vancouver-Fraser branch), and Vancouver Coastal Health. By offering hope in every cup, the Willow Bean Café has become an inspiring space for employees, customers and the community it serves.
The café, which is located in the Willow Pavilion of the Vancouver General Hospital, provides a supportive, adaptive work environment where a small group of individuals recovering from mental illness participate in a six month barista training program. Work experience is coupled with increased stability and self-confidence, and becomes a way to inspire purpose, encourage future growth and, in turn, further support mental well-being. After graduation from the program, these individuals can come back and work as senior baristas, trainers and mentors to other people in the program. The program allows trainees to discover their strengths, talents, skills and value they bring to a company, and instills confidence and pride in their work.
The baristas support the patients they serve in their own journeys as well, thanks to the open dialogue about mental illness fostered in this environment. Connection within the community helps break down stigma associated with mental illness, and encourages patients to engage with the baristas and share their recovery experiences.
The Canadian Mental Health Association develops the employee training program for the Willow Bean Café while Vancouver Coastal Health provides the space, equipment and funding. Sodexo lends our expertise in food services and management services. 100% of the Café’s profits go back to the Canadian Mental Health Association to fund additional mental health programs.
Learn more about The Willow Bean Café in this video link.