In post-sentence care, finding employment is challenging, especially for the young and uneducated. In Rotterdam (the Netherlands) a new opened coffee bar serving high quality coffee offers a fresh new start in life.

“Making good coffee is a delicate job that you have to do wholeheartedly”, says Robin (25). Slowly he pours the coffee and tops the flat white with a heart shaped figure. “Look, this is a cup of coffee just as it’s supposed to be.” Robin is not your average barista working in one of the many metropolitan’s coffee shops. He is a boy from the hood who used to make a living by doing monkey tricks, as he describes his criminal past. But for two months now, he mainly talks about arabica coffee beans, light and dark roastings and the difference between an espresso macchiato and a cappuccino.

heilige boontjes

Rodney van den Hengel (l) and Marco den Dunnen (r)

Coffeebar Ookami first opened this month and gives young people with a criminal past a chance of learning a profession and gaining work experience. In a period of 50 weeks the  initiators, police youth co-ordinator Marco den Dunnen and social worker Rodney van den Hengel hope to give the youngsters a good alternative for going back into the streets earning quick and easy money. “To re-integrate these young people in the labour market, they need intensive supervision. Ookami can offer that. And of course we’ll be serving excellent coffee”, says Den Dunnen. “All coffee is roasted in the basement of the shop and is fair trade.”

Through a graduated system, the young ex-offenders can work their way up to being a barista or being responsible for the maintenance of the equipment or bookkeeping. Who just arrives out of prison, starts at level C, where they learn the fundamentals in Dutch and English language and maths, but also social skills and of course roasting coffee.  Van den Hengel: “Profit we make, flows directly back to our target group. After finishing the training in our coffeeshop, some youngsters may want to pick up any other form of education that will help them find a job. We can help them financially, but also, they can rely on the basic training and work experience from the coffee shop.”

The coffee bar serves its own coffee brand: Heilige Rotterdamse boontjes . For more information, you can visit their Facebook page.


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