The Welcome Project is a social enterprise that combines a cafe with a boutique to train our newest neighbors in restaurant and store management while bringing new life to the business district of Camp Washington, Cincinnati.

 
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Our Beginning

Welcome is an idea that spawned from a partnership between artist Cal Cullen, executive director of Wave Pool Art Gallery and Sheryl Rajbhandari, founder and executive director of Heartfelt Tidbits.  Both have a passion for art and humanitarian work associated with immigrants and refugees.  Welcome Home, Café and Boutique was a natural fit to provide solutions to gaps they had identified within the local community of the immigrants and refugees. 

Cincinnati has a rich heritage of being an immigrant rich city.  Specifics related to Ohio can be found in Appendix A obtained from the American Immigration Council.  While the city has 80+ providers that do a tremendous job in assisting with welcoming refugees we recognize the need to expand this.  Many who are marginalized and at risk feel isolated and vulnerable.  Their art enables them to share their voice without the language and build friendships through the program.  Our goal is that this through this business we will be empower immigrants and refugees with knowledge and break down the barriers that many face related to employment and housing.

 

“The women in our weekly art classes are learning much more than just art skills, they are learning language, making friends, and building community.”

— Sheryl Rajbhandari, FOUNDER

 
 

There are approximately 20 women working weekly with the existing artesian programs offered by Wave Pool and Heartfelt Tidbits.  They are from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Tanzania,  Bhutan, Russia, Mexico, Nepal, Congo, Eretria, and other countries.

Local immigrant and refugees bring developed skills to their new home but lack the ability to utilize these skills due to language, economic and business barriers.  Welcome will help solve this by engaging them in a social enterprise that will have two business components, a café and retail store.  A third component is housing above the retail and café venue.

As executive directors of small non-profits, Cal and Sheryl understand the importance of leveraging and engaging partners and the value that they bring.  Both feel this venue will be new and exciting to Cincinnati.  The desired outcome is not only success for the participants in the program but that other cities will be inspired and leverage this model to assist with the development and economic opportunities for their newest neighbors.

 
A bead weaving by Bhutanese artist Krishna Ghimire

A bead weaving by Bhutanese artist Krishna Ghimire

 

Our Mission

Welcome's mission is to empower marginalized and at risk refugees and immigrants by providing affordable housing, jobs, education and skills training, so that they will one day take these opportunities and turn them into a lasting, better way of life. 

 

65.3

million people are forcibly displaced worldwide, refugees who left their home, where it was too dangerous to stay.

333

refugees were resettled in Cincinnati last year. Most came from Bhutan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

1%

Lass than 1% of refugees are resettled. Most live their lives in refugee camps.

 
 

In addition to being a full functioning restaurant in Camp Washington, the café will serve three other purposes, culinary employment training, and an incubator site for refugees who seek to someday open their own restaurant and ability for local immigrant and refugee gardeners to sell fresh produce.  A pastry chef will be employed to train students over a eight week period all aspects of operating a café, including:
·      Menu planning
·      Food supplies and inventory
·      Food safety
·      Food preparation and pastry skills

Upon completion of the training programs, participants will then receive assistance with obtaining food service employment.

Camp Washington has been identified as a food dessert in Cincinnati.  Through a partnership with Heartfelt Tidbits and Turner Farms an idea was created that local immigrant gardeners could leverage the café as a place to sell their local produce.  The produce purchased would be used for the café and also be available for purchase by the local community.  

 
A preview of Syrian lunch options that will be served at the Welcome Cafe

A preview of Syrian lunch options that will be served at the Welcome Cafe

 

Get Involved

If you live nearby and would like to help, we accept volunteers regardless of skill level. We specifically need help cleaning, rehabbing the storefronts and apartments, and assisting us with setting up the restaurant and getting it code compliant. Donations are vital to the feasibility of this project. We are specifically looking for kitchen and dining items, retail shelving and hardware, as well as commercial kitchen fixtures. We have compiled a wishlist of these items which you can view below. You are also most welcome to make a tax-deductable donation in the amount of value for any of these items. 

View Wish List →