By Natthawat Laping
The coffee shop, located on a road behind the famous Wat Rong Khun attraction in Chiang Rai's Muang district, has received more customers after 40,000 Thai social network members re-tweeted the original Twitter post by Thai PBS reporter Jiraporn Khampapan about the coffee shop with delicious and inexpensive coffee (Bt30 per glass) made by friendly youths with special needs.
Students with special needs from Chiang Rai Panyanukul School receive vocational training at the shop so they can fend for themselves in the future, said school director Kamon Darasuwan.
Each day four or five students provide food and beverages under the supervision of a mentor while the shop also offers for sale handicraft products made by the students.
Being Chiang Rai's sole institute caring for children with special needs, the school has 437 students from kindergarten to Mathayom 6 levels, and 90 per cent are locals, he said.
As educational advancement for the students after Mathayom 6 was often difficult due to their disabilities, the school focused on the vocational track, currently providing 50 vocational training programmes such as tea/coffee making, fruit/vegetable carving and other handicrafts.
Chiang Rai Social Development and Human Security Office had previously allowed the school to set up a coffee shop on its land just opposite Wat Rong Khun's Ubosot.
Since the aim wasn't to make a profit, the income went towards covering the costs and any profit was shared by the students who placed the money in a savings bank account. The coffee shop earned over Bt1 million a year so the students, after graduation, got savings of Bt20,000-Bt30,000 per head as seed money for their future, he said.
Recently, the Chiang Rai Social Development and Human Security Office and Tambon Pa Or Don Chai swapped land plots so the coffee shop had to relocate.
The school used cash donations to purchase a commercial shop further down the road behind the temple as their new location, while the Office of Basic Education Commission provided a budget for equipment purchase.
However, as the new location was further from the temple, it meant lower sales due to less frequent foot traffic, he said.
Although the school wasn't affected as it hadn't aimed for profit and various costs were from donations, the students' income has shrunk and the shop atmosphere is quieter.
He is urging people, especially tourists, to visit the shop so the students can get work experience and earn some income and have savings after graduation to help them become independent.