A determined duo with learning difficulties have bagged their dream jobs thanks to a life-changing charity café.

Rachael Havalak and Amber Studholme began work placements with Smile For Life Children’s Charity’s Café Beam in 2014, to build their confidence, skills and opportunities before leaving college.

Now both have been hired by Opportunity Café in Newburn as Café Assistants and say it’s thanks to their experience at Café Beam that they have achieved their dreams.

Rachael, from Hazelrigg, said: “I am very happy, I have always wanted to work in a café and Café Beam gave me the confidence to believe I could do it. I was over the moon when I got the call to say I had this job. I called my nanna and she was screaming down the phone, everyone is very proud.

“I would like to say thank you to Smile For Life charity for everything that they have done for me, it has changed my life. I have been at Café Beam for three years and I have loved it. Now I feel really excited about my future.”

The 20-year-old is now working 25-hours a week at Opportunity Café and is looking forward to her first pay cheque.

She added: “I am going to save up and take my mam, dad and brother out for a meal, I want to treat them after everything they have done for me.”

Amber, who lives in Heaton, believes Café Beam made her realise that having a disability is not a barrier to having great skills in the world of work.

She said: “I was surprised at how well I got on when I started at Cafe Beam, straight away I realised I wanted to work in the customer service industry. It is so friendly and happy, I became much more confident.”

Thanks to Amber’s three years of work experience at Café Beam, she was a prime candidate for the role of Café Assistant at Opportunity Café – a coffee shop that employs people with a range of disabilities.

The 20-year-old added: “I always hoped that I would get a paid job out of my work experience at Café Beam and now that I have I just feel so excited.”

Café Beam was set up in 2014 by Paula Gascoigne, Chief Executive of Smile For Life Children’s Charity.

The charity helps disabled and disadvantaged young people by providing specialist equipment and amazing opportunities and Paula decided to expand on this by building Café Beam on the charity premises in Ashburton Road, Gosforth – to offer real-life work placements too.

She said: “It became quite clear there was a gap when disabled students left school. When they finish, options are very limited and we wanted to create something that gave them an option.

“It’s fantastic to see some of our original students who started their journey at Café Beam now go on to gain paid employment, it is such a big achievement and shows that everything that we set out to do is working.

“I am so proud of both Rachael and Amber, they have worked very hard and I think they will be an asset to their new employer.”

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