Making an inclusivity smoothie: REACH’s recipe for success

Deaf students are treated to a smoothie demonstration with the F&B teacher at REACH, Ngoc Nguyen

Around a long table, students attentively watch their teacher, Ngoc Nguyen, demonstrates how to make a smoothie with her savvy skills. They cannot, however, understand her words, but rather look to a Vietanamese sign language interpreter, who takes what Ngoc is saying and transforms it into a series of hand signs. 

These students, 16 in total, are deaf.

When Ngoc finishes her demonstration, the students take over.

There are two blenders, one at each end of a Ngoc’s demonstration table.

Behind one, Hong Anh, a deaf student who is passionate about opening her own cafe shop after the training, begins slicing a passionfruit. She adds it to the blender along with ice, milk, and wheat cream. With her left hand she holds the top of the blender closed and with her right index finger she cautiously flicks the on switch.

“BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!” the blades spin emulsifying the ingredients inside into a yellow, slurry not quite creamy, but not quite watery either.

“It tasted alright,” said Ngoc smiling, “but i think she added a little too much ice.”   

Hong Anh, however, was very proud of herself. 

“This is the first time I made a passion fruit smoothie on my own”, she said. “I think I did it quite well. It tasted delicious.”

Deaf students are transforming their lives by taking part in the F&B training at REACH. Under Ngoc’s instruction students from the full-time F&B course are also taking part in the role of “teacher assistants”.

The course includes 90 hours of training aiming to help students become proficient at making popular drinks. This is to help them to find work in the hospitality industry.

“We target job opportunities at coffee shops and restaurants where it makes it easier for deaf people to communicate,” says Hiep Hoang, the Step Up project coordinator. “Therefore, we aim to be proficient in making popular drinks like juices, smoothie and coffee.”

The course is a part of the Step Up project designed for deaf and blind people to develop much needed vocational and life skills. This is a pilot program, if it is successful, we hope to expand to offering other courses like hairdressing, cooking, housekeeping etc.

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