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Barista thanks mentor who helped her grind out a career

SINGAPORE — Presenting her mentor with a bouquet of clay roses in a miniature coffee cup on Teacher’s Day, Ms Nuraqilah Fatin Swat, who has an intellectual disability, thanked her on Thursday (Aug 31) for helping her to start a career.

Barista thanks mentor who helped her grind out a career

Nuraqilah Fatin Swat (left) became a full-time barista at the Bettr Barista Coffee Academy with the help of job coach Rosnah Jumat (right) at APSN Delta Senior School. Photo: Esther Leong

SINGAPORE — Presenting her mentor with a bouquet of clay roses in a miniature coffee cup on Teacher’s Day, Ms Nuraqilah Fatin Swat, who has an intellectual disability, thanked her on Thursday (Aug 31) for helping her to start a career.

Ms Fatin, 22, is now working as a barista at McDonald’s McCafe and social enterprise Bettr Barista Coffee Academy and living her dream of making latte art designs. She graduated from the Association for Persons with Special Needs’ Delta Senior School (DSS) two years ago.

Diagnosed with an intellectual disability when she was 10, Ms Fatin used to be a withdrawn individual. As she has trouble processing information and regulating her emotions, her relationships with those around her were strained — until her teacher Ms Rosnah Jumat came along.

Having worked in the food and beverage industry for 14 years, Ms Rosnah, 30, has had plenty of experience working with people with special needs.

She was offered a teaching job by the DSS principal two years ago, after she managed to convince a colleague at the restaurant where she was working, who was also a student at the school, to attend his classes regularly.

“I have always liked to do charity work,” said Ms Rosnah, who received her gift from Ms Fatin at the ASPN Mystical Cafe at the Kembangan-Chai Chee Community Hub. “When I was running operations in restaurants, I was always very busy. But seeing how the students grow to be where they are now, that’s the sense of satisfaction and the most rewarding thing,”

Ms Fatin was among the first batch of students who were put under Ms Rosnah’s supervision when she first joined DSS.

During Ms Fatin’s internship at McCafe, Ms Rosnah was assigned as her job coach and visited her three times a week.

During the first few weeks, Ms Rosnah noticed her student’s short temper while dealing with difficult customers, particularly those who 
requested a change in their orders.

However, instead of expressing her frustrations out loud, Ms Fatin would keep her emotions to herself, said Ms Rosnah.

She would then reach out to her student with a text message or phone call, giving Ms Fatin a safe space to rant about problematic customers.

To boost Ms Fatin’s spirits, Ms Rosnah and the McCafe manager gave the intern motivational post-it notes.

One said: “I’m very happy to have you as my student. Your presence always brightens up my day. Continue to stay positive and cheerful.”

Over time, Ms Fatin began opening up to Ms Rosnah more and more; arranging to jog or play badminton together, and going to the same religious classes over the weekend.

Such activities helped to strengthen Ms Fatin’s “belief and confidence”, said Ms Rosnah.

Today, Ms Fatin has become “more patient” and handle difficult customers “in a proper way”.

Ms Fatin said: “My time at McCafe definitely taught me to be more patient. I know how to settle issues now, and I’ve made more friends. I’m a very negative person, but Ms Rosnah helped me to stay positive. “

Last year, Ms Fatin came in sixth place in the annual Latte Art Competition, which attracted about 40 
baristas.

She is now hoping to take part in the Cafe Asia event, where professional baristas gather to explore business opportunities with both regional and international counterparts. 
ILDYKO ANG

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