Underneath the Vyšehrad Fortress and just a block away from the beautiful Vltava lies Café AdAstra. Meaning “to the stars,” AdAstra gives hope and confidence to people with physical, mental or socio-cultural disabilities who cannot work comfortably in the regular labor market.
“I have a seriously disabled sister,” says Šulcová. “So my other sister and I and colleagues from our organization were inspired to start the café in order to empower people with disabilities.”
AdAstra helps the disabled to grow their independence and people skills on a daily basis. 28-year-old Zuzka, who is mentally challenged, started out nervous, shy and quite scared. In the past two and a half years she has found her home behind the bar, blossoming into a sweet and communicative woman.
30-year-old Petr has always loved communicating with and helping people, which the café now allows him to do professionally. Many employees have worked there for years, including 26-year-old Marie. Marie, who has Down syndrome, autism and a heart disease, has been a part of the café program since the beginning 8 years ago.
“They experience a unique feeling of autonomy and independence that improves their lives, and ours,” says Šulcová. “There is no other business like this in Prague.”
AdAstra’s wooden interior is instantly cozy and comfortable, complete with an old piano, centerpiece bar and an entire wall of shelves lined with books and art. Enjoy a glass of wine at the bar, savor a coffee in the armchairs with a friend, or enjoy a meal in the giant window seats.
The café serves freshly baked cakes and pastries, plus coffee, traditional Czech beer and a large wine and liqueur selection. It’s the perfect lunch destination with daily menus featuring various soups and delicious dishes ranging from Greek chicken with hummus and pita bread to potato gnocchi with cream and spinach.
The café also host concerts and events and has a shop of products made by the employees. The space has a piano and various musical instruments for anyone to play, and plenty of toys and books for children.
AdAstra currently has around 30 employees with a wide range of duties.
“They serve guests, prepare tables, clean the café, help at the barista bar and in the kitchen, wash dishes, fold napkins, tear mint and other herbs and make things for the shop,” says Šulcová. “Everyone works according to their capabilities and abilities.”
AdAstra is a part of Zajíček na koni, a non-profit that focuses on improving the lives of the disabled through interaction with nature and financial support. When Zajíček na koni launched in 2004 they simply provided activities that clients specifically requested. Since then they have evolved into providing full annual programs.
“Our first project was horse-racing for people with disabilities,” says Šulcová. “This was followed by summer and winter camps and a volunteer service as a babysitter for children with disabilities. Our big project throughout the year collects money for various activities of children who suffer from poverty in the Czech Republic.”
In 2011, Zajíček na koni had the idea to cooperate with cafés throughout Prague in order to give those with disabilities a job. Just four years ago they were able to open Café AdAstra with this sole purpose.
Currently, the café does not make a profit, but as support for the café grows profits will go towards salaries for the employees and the summer camps. Besides having a delicious cup of coffee, you can also show your support by bringing supplies to the café such as A4 paper, pens, dishes and cutlery, and clothing.
AdAstra provides a space for those with disabilities to feel important, useful and independent, boosting their self-confidence and self-esteem and truly allowing them to reach for the stars.
Visit Café AdAstra M-F 11:00-23:00 and Saturdays 10:00-23:00 at Podskalská 8, Prague 2.
Call or email Markéta Šulcová for more ways to get involved: +420 731 009 645, firstname.lastname@example.org