The Papu Kafé
In a small Czech town there is a lively café serving coffee and the common good. Called Papu Kafé, it is part of a Family Centre in Choceň, which has a population of around 10,000. Why did this enterprise in the North East of the Czech Republic come to the attention of the United World Project? We asked Ludmila Barborková to explain. She is the coordinator for the Czech Republic and Slovakia of the Economy of Communion project and its International “Incubating Network”
Ludmila, first of all, what exactly is the Papu Café?
I could answer this question in many ways. For instance, Papu Kafé is a place for everyone in and around Choceň, especially families. It’s a coffee shop, with a children’s playground! You can come to PAPU for a great coffee and homemade desserts, to spend time with your friends and family, to stop by for a while to feed your baby or to change a baby’s diaper. PAPU is a welcoming, pleasant, family-friendly environment in the city center.
Just to go back a step, we’d like to get to know the protagonist behind this enterprise, namely you!
I am 29 years old and have two sons (aged 3 and 1). Before going on maternity leave, I was working as a financial consultant for businesses in financial difficulties. This is obviously a very useful experience, which I continue to draw upon.
Papu Kafè is part of the Kaminek Family Center. Can you tell us more about that?
In the Czech Republic, family and mothers’ centers were first set up in the 90s after the Velvet Revolution. In Choceň, the Kaminek Family Center was established in 2008. In this country parents (mostly women) are usually on maternity leave with their child for three years. Family centers are places where mothers can spend time with their children in a social setting, and it’s an effective preventative tool against social isolation. Among the services offered in the center is confidential psychological counseling (4 hours a week). Also every morning mothers can come in with their children for a special program including exercise, singing and dancing. There will often be a talk on a specific issue, followed by time for sharing their joys and worries. We organize educational programs and training on topics such as how to raise children or how to improve communication skills. In addition, we organize exercise routines for pregnant women and other antenatal preparation. The mission of our center is to foster communion among people and to build trust.
We really do try to be there for everyone and create communion. For example, a woman from Bulgaria moved here to marry her Czech husband. When she arrived she didn’t know anyone in our town. As I knew her husband I offered her a small job preparing coffees in PAPU. When she became pregnant she benefitted from our programs, and now attends the morning sessions with their son! Her child is now two years old and in September she started to teach other mothers English as she is an English teacher. She has found new friends and a community where she belongs. Experiences like this motivate me and give me strength and drive to do more.
How did the idea to open a café come about?
Two years ago, the Kaminek Family Center team decided to move from its original location on the outskirts, to bigger premises in the city center, in order to offer a wider range of activities and be more accessible. This also meant higher rent, so the idea of starting a coffee shop came up. At that point, I was approached by Center director, Katerina Jindrova, who asked if I would like to collaborate with her and make the dream reality.
So PAPU Café is a Kaminek Family Center project. It is all very inter-connected. PAPU Café is located within the Kaminek family Center. Due to the relocation of the centre and opening the Café, the venue is open to many families and to the public at large. We also organize trips out, music nights, and evening discussions on specific topics such as healthy living, psychological wellbeing and educational issues. A new extension to PAPU Café allows parents to follow the lectures while their children can play safely in the children’s playroom.
What is your role here?
I am in charge of the coffee shop and accounts. The Kaminek Family Center is a not-for-profit organization, we are dependent on donations from the state, the region and the municipality. Therefore we keep on improving our services, while also aiming to become less dependent on donations by finding new ways of raising funds. For instance, this summer we started to do coffee catering during festivals and for private companies. And this is something we would like to continue. We are working to ensure the sustainability of our Family Center and maintain the low price of our services so they are accessible for everyone.
Could you describe a typical day at your center …
Yes, with pleasure! In the morning (8am), our staff arrive at the center to clean and set up the coffee shop ready to open at 9am. Almost every day the children’s exercise programs start at 9am. These are divided by age: 3-6 months, 6-12 months, 1 year, 2-3 years, and include rhymes, poems, singing, etc. Mothers stay with their children in the center until lunchtime when they usually go home. The coffee shop remains open for the rest of the day, and families in the city come to enjoy time together with friends and families. Several times a week we offer an educational, psychological or cultural program which is open to the public.