Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Homeless Not Hopeless - HEI Cafe, Braamfontein

HEI - The Hillbrow Entrepreneurship Initiative - is a student driven NGO which helps empower the disadvantaged youth and the homeless of one of Johannesburg's toughest neighbourhoods, Hillbrow. HEI helps potential entrepreneurs find their way out of poverty by helping them to get relevant business skills, work experience and network with the wider community to find the support to initiate their business dreams. It's a new organisation (launched 2012), powered by the spirit and determination of its student volunteers. Some of the student volunteers are also from very poor backgrounds, or are even homeless themselves and the whole organisation is imbued with the powerful belief that no matter your background, everyone deserves the chance to succeed and rise above adversity.

Here's a promo video showing the team in action: 

HEI recently opened a 'social cafe' in the heart of Braamfontein which acts as a place to promote the business efforts of its partners as well as providing a meeting space for the NGO and much more besides. They try to keep everything as affordable as possible so all drinks are 10Rand (although you are encouraged to donate more if you can - all the money goes straight to the NGO). In addition everything is for sale - once a month they sell off all the second-hand furniture in the cafe as well as the artworks on display which are produced by the homeless and maginalised of Hillbrow.

HEI was founded by French MBA student Barbara and the the cafe serves French crepes made according to her Grandmother's recipe, as well as a changing series of other comfort food. When I dropped by I also bumped into Tania who is one of the guides at PastExperiences and a very skilled sketcher, amongst many other talents. Tania (who also volunteers here) told me how they plan to run arts and crafts classes (with all materials provided) where local artists will share their skills, as well as other hands-on workshops.

In the coming weeks the cafe will also be opening a courtyard space and although a liquor licence looks unlikely (this is an NGO after all), they do let people BYOB on Friday evenings (from 17:30) when they have a marimba band play live in the cafe. Unfortunately I couldn't stay to see the band, I had to run off to another event, but I have heard the band are really good.

With its free wifi, free library, record player, charming young clientele and volunteer staff and the fresh inspiring air of community action, HEI Cafe has to be one of the most heart-warming and inviting social spaces in Braamfontein. I know I'm going to be spending a lot more time here.

Courtyard cafe space soon to be revealed

Open: 07:00 - 17:30, Sat, Sun 14:00 - 17:00.

How I got there: It is a little tricky to find HEI Cafe but well worth persevering. It is located at 87 De Korte Street (the building opposite the Easy Hotel), to find the entrance you need to go up the alleyway at the side of the building (on Melle Street or Reserve Street) and you will soon spot the tables spilling out of the courtyard. This alleyway is not dodgy so do not be afraid!

1 comment:

  1. This looks fantastic! I might just have to visit once I am back in South Africa.

    Thanks for the post.