Embrace Café opens at New Era University

THE EXECUTIVE MINISTER of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ), Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, led the opening of Embrace Café at the New Era University (NEU) main campus in Quezon City, Philippines on March 1, 2017.

Embrace Café is a project of the Executive Minister through the NEU-Special Education (SPED) Program in collaboration with the Christian Society for the Deaf (CSD). Its objective is to give employment opportunities to people with special needs and assist them in integrating themselves into society as functional members of it. The café is so-named “embrace” because it advocates the acceptance of persons with special needs—“embracing” them with support and love.

Sister Aileen Z. Alcid, 27, from the Local Congregation of Camarin, Metro Manila North Ecclesiastical District, expressed in Sign Language, “As a college graduate, I tried applying for a job twice but was not accepted because I’m deaf.” She now works as a crew member of Embrace Café. This is what the organizers of the café had thought of—a place where the students with special needs could work after graduation.

Brother Ed H. Lumbao, a minister of the gospel and NEU-SPED Program Director, explained, “This is a good opportunity for them to have a job. Embrace Café employs persons with special needs after going through basic training to help them gain life-centered skills that will enable them to be functional and productive adults in the future.”

Having a stable job is what Sister Danielle Anne C. Puriran, 25, from the Local Congregation of Manggahan, Quezon City Ecclesiastical District, has been praying for. “I thank our Almighty God so much for answering our devotional prayers. I used to work as a waitress in a restaurant, but only on an on-call basis. For a long time, I did not have a stable job, until I was accepted here at Embrace Café. I am also very happy working with fellow Deaf brethren,” she expressed through Sign Language.

Sister Judy Ann P. Dayao, 20, from the Local Congregation of Baesa, Quezon City, was not able to attend formal schooling when she was young. She expressed, “Before, when I didn’t have a job yet, I only stayed at home. Now, I am very happy because I have a job.”

Aside from academics, NEU imparts Christian values to its students—to accept, respect, love, and help others, including children and students with special needs.

“We need to understand that persons who are differently abled need to be trained to help them prepare for their future. We equip them with as much functional skills as possible. Embrace Café makes it possible to train students in the NEU-SPED Program for vocational skills so that once they graduate, they would be able to apply these skills when working, and also be able to provide opportunities for our brethren who are Deaf to have a decent means of living,” said Sister Kristine Mae T. Aguirre, NEU-SPED Program staff.

Sister Marianne R. Bangloy, 26, a graduate of the NEU-SPED Program, said, “Here [in the café], I am assigned at the bread and pastries section. I learned how to serve the customers and interact with them. I feel happy being here and meeting other people. Thank you so much, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, for giving us this opportunity.”

The relatives of the brethren with special needs observed the changes in their loved ones serving at Embrace Café. “This is a big help for my cousin because she is more confident now in communicating with other people unlike before when she was just with her immediate family most of the time. She has become more active in worshiping our Almighty God,” said Sister Odyssa Belle P. Pagatpatan, Sister Marianne’s cousin.

Brother Mark Jason Patagnan, a minister of the gospel and the NEU-College of Education secretary, added, “Through this project, the café assistants feel the love of God through the Church Administration. It gives them more confidence in dealing with other people. They can now do the things that most people are able to. Also, they don’t only serve in the café, they inspire other brethren with special needs to be active in the Church Of Christ.”


This article was originally published in the Pasugo: God’s Message magazine.