Brownies & downieS is the happiest, funnest, coolest food experience in Africa – where ability and disability meet! Serving fresh and contemporary home-style food, Truth coffee, and THE BEST BROWNIES in Cape Town, we welcome our guests into a homely atmosphere.

Your home away from home.

At the beginning…

Brownies & downieS started in the Netherlands in 2010 because of an idea that two friends had. Teun Horck and Thijs Swinkels realised their calling to help people with intellectual disabilities by opening the first Brownies & downieS in Veghel. They created a unique concept in the Netherlands and surrounding countries and have seen successful growth by over 40 stores since those early days.

How did this idea come to Cape Town?

Wendy Vermeulen, a Dutch social work student and the daughter of an entrepreneur, completed her internship in Cape Town in 2010. She saw a desperate need for facilities, training and employment after school for people who have an intellectual disability in South Africa. More urgent was her realisation that the public’s stigmas surrounding intellectual disabilities were misplaced. On her return to the Netherlands she took the initiative and contacted the founders of Brownies & downieS, who agreed without question to support Wendy’s dream of opening a non-profit cafe and training centre in Cape Town where people of ability and disability can learn and grow together.

The start of something beautiful.

She founded Our Second Home, an NPO which works together with Brownies & downieS to train people with intellectual disabilities at the cafe. Special-needs young adults are trained and integrated into jobs in the hospitality and retail sectors. Training while working in Brownies & downieS helps to break down long-standing stigmas and gives customers and special-needs adults the opportunity to meet and interact with each other in a fun and homely environment.

What have we achieved until now?

Our Second Home with Brownies & downieS won first place in the 2017 SABF Disability Empowerment Awards, was voted #1 Coffee Shop in Cape Town Centre by visitors on TripAdvisor in 2018, received a public service award in 2018 Oliver Top Empowerment Awards, and has successfully integrated 9 graduates from our work-training programme into employment. The future is bright for all at Brownies & downieS!

Our Second Home

Brownies & downieS has their own NPO. It’s called Our Second Home, and the restaurant wouldn’t exist without it! Our Second Home employs profession trainers and social workers to teach people with intellectual disabilities in the restaurant. The trainees learn various skills in the restaurant, from hard-skills (knife skills, cooking, brewing coffee) to soft-skills (customer interaction, boundaries, teamwork).

Placement

It doesn’t stop there! Under the guidance and management of Wendy and Wade, the graduates from the skills programme are integrated into a working business. Equipped with the skills to succeed, the opportunity to thrive and the chance to earn a living wage, they leave the restaurant and begin their new work career and job!

Spreading the word

In doing this, staff at other companies are trained in how to professionally interact with people who have disabilities in their workspace through sensitivity training. In this way, stigma’s are broken down quicker as people from all backgrounds and areas get to interact with-, and have their minds changed by people with intellectual disabilities.

People with disabilities may have special needs, but they also have human needs.