Meghalaya’s YOU & I Arts Café – Where Creativity & Food go hand in hand

Meghalaya’s YOU & I Arts Café – Where Creativity & Food go hand in hand

~~ By Raysham Powdel

In a technology-driven world where time is considered of the essence and every innovation and creation is conceptualized to link people to a virtual network with varied possibilities thereby turning this world into one giant global village.

However, amidst all this technological hype, an entrepreneur from Meghalaya, Wanphai Nongrum came up with a brilliant concept to get the youth (who are of course presently swayed by the modern gears) engaged in something unique and out-of-style by harnessing their potentials with an aim to instill a sense of confidence and bring out the best in them.

 

IT ALL STARTED LIKE THIS … 


Wanphai’s project: 

The inspiration for Path to Creation evolves from a personal conviction through 18 years of working with wonderful promising youths and children falling into vulnerable situations due to various circumstances in their lives. The Path to Creation, strive at building new starting points for the long term recovery and rehabilitation of children/youth.

Path to Creation is a registered trust and works among the children and the youth by giving them a platform to uplift and befriend their positive imagination, their passion and their unique potential.  They provide various training programs to enhance their skills, to deal with peer pressure, to think out of the box and most importantly, to listen to them and if needed, guidance and counselling is given.

Objectives:

An atmosphere dedicated to a melting pot of ideas to enhance creative thinking, various arts, everyday solutions and group collaboration and communication among the youth and children with an aim to achieve great transformation in meeting the needs of the hour.

Work also involves interacting with adults, parents, guardians and NGOs to develop listening/observation skills and the ability to counsel and talk about issues which are generally taken for granted or swept under the rug by our society.

About the Founder & Creative Director

Wanphai Nongrum: Founder & Creative Director at Path to Creation, born and brought up in Shillong is an artist, teacher and social worker devoted to working creatively with children, adults and elders for strengthening of community and betterment of society for last 20 years. His area of interest lies in teaching, managing transformative learning processes with young people and adults. After spending 16 years in many states in India and Nepal he returned back to Shillong. In two years, he travel to many North Eastern states and realized that the youth need a safe space or platform to talk about issues that really matter in their day to day lives therefore he came up with an idea of setting a Café by the name YOU & I – Arts Café – a hangout zone for youth.

Why a Café?

In today’s generation, there are a lot of hangout spaces for young people like coffee shops, theatre halls, parks, lakes, food joints etc where young people can go and spend time with friends for leisure or work purposes.

Cafes are considered to be good venues to conduct office meetings and for friends to meet.

The YOU & I – Arts Café is not a profit café but it runs on a sustainability model. The café opens from Monday – Saturday from 11am – 8pm.

The café is open for everyone to come but a session accommodate only 30 – 45 persons per session in the initial stage.

The café serves as a centre for information exchange, communication and social interaction. This café  provides facilitators to talk, read, write, entertain one another or pass the time whether individually or in small groups. Young people can engage in conversations with their own groups or with facilitators. Here is a space where they can express any of their interests without any fear.

Project: YOU & I – Arts Café 

YOU & I – Arts Café  was an initiative by Mr. Wanphai Nongrum which was started on 18th January  2016 and since Path to Creation is now registered as a trust, Wanphai has made the café one of its projects. The Café is located at Mawroh. The café has put its focus only in Shillong, Meghalaya as of now with the hope to make it a model café in the future which can be replicated in other areas.

The café serves primarily hot coffee with more than 72 plus varieties of flavoured teas and other beverages. Along with the teas, the café also serves traditional snacks like Phan – Saw, Putharo and DohsniangNei-iong, Pu-doh, Pu-saw and many more according to the season and availability.

It also serves food, such as pastries, muffins, local and light snacks. Besides the food, the youth who come here also engage with the following activities:

 

  • Art – The café have a board (Black and White) where people who come in can leave a thought for the day or an inspiring message.  Anyone can use the spaces to scribble  or share a piece of their own art. It is open for all.
  • Making hand puppets, dolls and paper crafts
  • Documentary screening and discussion organised once in two months throughout the year.
  • Outreach programmes conducted in the schools of Shillong in the form of training and workshops. Every year, the café covers 5 schools in Shillong and conducts sessions on Personal Safety, Child Abuse and Trafficking. These sessions  are conducted in different modules.

Besides the above, the café will also soon provide a safe space where the youth can prepare their own teas and coffees. This will make them feel at home. Sessions will be organized where any person renowned for their work will be invited to give a talk for the youth. NGOs and interested people can use this space for conducting regular sessions for the youth.

The café is not only about food but is also for budding artist to come and display their arts and craft work.

These artists can also organize short workshops for the youth who are interested to learn arts and craft. The café has a peaceful ambience with soothing music in the background. There is also art work and handicrafts made by local artists which are for sale.

The café organizes special programmes by inviting speakers from a network of different organizations, NGOs, student and community leaders, artists etc to facilitate programmes at the café. The café facilitates networking with such people.

PERKS

The café provides a safe space for young people to chill and hang out with their friends or family members.

It is an open and friendly space where young people are welcome to hang out with friends, read books, use technology resources (free wi-fi), play traditional and learning games which have been revived and developed by the founder. Also it serve traditional Khasi snacks.

School and college Students (upon showing ID) also receive a 10 percent discount on selected items at the cafe!

(The above article is an assignment under the internship programme undergone by Raysham Osborne Powdel, a 3rd year student of Journalism and Broadcast media, Himalayan University College – Institute of Mass Communication , with TNT- The Northeast Today)


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