Brownies & downieS Cape Town is a training centre for people with intellectual disabilities and a vessel to create change and acceptance in the South African culture. Special needs young adults are trained to be employable in the hospitality, service and retail sectors. This is achieved in a coffee shop and lunchroom that is open to the general public.

Brownies & downieS started in 2010 in Veghel, the Netherlands, because of an idea that two friends had. The one a chef (Teun Horck) the other working at a special needs school (Thijs Swinkels). They realised over a time that not many people with disabilities were employed in the hospitality sector, and decided to change this. Using a combination of high quality food and staff members with an intellectual disability in their employ, they created a relatively new concept in the Netherlands and surrounding European countries. Since those early days, they have grown by close to 30 stores in the Netherlands.

So how did this idea come to Cape Town?

A young lady named Wendy Vermeulen came over from the Netherlands, completed her social work internship in South Africa during 2010, and decided to stay in this beautiful city upon completion of her degree. Just like the two founders, Wendy realised that there are not many facilities for people with an intellectual disability in South Africa, who go to school until age eighteen, at which point opportunities for employment after school drop dramatically. She found some protective workshops and sheltered employment facilities, but not many, and not even close to enough. But more urgent was her realisation that the assumptions and fear of the public to interact with people with intellectual disabilities was misplaced. On her return to the Netherlands she experienced first-hand how the employees with special needs back home blossomed through the work of Brownies & Downies, and how the customers and public became more comfortable and open to treating people with special needs the same as anyone else. Given her background and her passion for this cause, Brownies & Downies sent Wendy back to South Africa to establish the concept here, starting in the Mother City.

Our mandate is to improve the quality of life for the intellectually challenged, and to evolve the South African societal views and acceptance of these individuals into society. We want to create a welcoming atmosphere of love and acceptance in every outlet, and provide exceptional quality of food and dining experiences to our customers.

The vision of Our Second Home is to give young adults with an intellectual disability the possibility to live their lives just like every other person. We want them to be able to “live on their own”, and have their own job. We want to achieve this with flexible and professional guidance in their daily routine while looking at their individualized personal care plan.