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Pristina Café Gives Work and Visibility to People with Down Syndrome

In addition to employing people who have the genetic disorder, bar X21 is also raising awareness about the syndrome. 

11 July 2017

A coffee shop staffed by people with Down syndrome has proven popular in Kosovo’s capital. Opened in March, Kafeteria X21 is a project of Down Syndrome Kosovo (DSK), an NGO that collaborated with donors to offer an employment opportunity to people with the syndrome, AP writes.


The Balkan country has around 900 people with the disorder, who are subjected to widespread discrimination, according to DSK director Sebahate Hajdini-Beqiri.


“We are very happy with the number of people who come and enjoy a cup of coffee with ‘a different taste’. It is breaking down prejudices and stereotypes,” Hajdini-Beqiri said, according to Balkan Insight.


At the time of the opening, 10 of the cafe’s 18 staff members had Down syndrome, and although the café couldn’t pay a fixed amount to its employees, Hajdini-Beqiri hoped that would change with enough public support, Prishtina Insight wrote in March.


Customers and staff at the X21 cafe. Image via Down Syndrome Kosova/Facebook.


In interviews with the media, the café’s staff has expressed deep job satisfaction. One of them, Linda, told Balkan Insight that she “loves our guests and they love us also,” while Aldi said he worked “from 8am to 3pm, but I never get tired because the guests are really polite and they always encourage me.”



  • Down syndrome is caused by additional genetic material, National Down Syndrome Society writes. “Typically, the nucleus of each cell [on the body] contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.” That also explains the name of the new café.

  • Although its manifestations differ from case to case, some common characteristics include low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the palm.

  • Prejudices against people with Down syndrome are rife in TOL’s coverage region. For instance, an elementary school in Moscow allegedly recalled a school photo album in 2015 after being asked by parents to remove a photo of a classmate of their children with Down syndrome.


  • In Russia, parents of babies with developmental disabilities face pressure from both society and the medical establishment to abandon their children at birth, wrote TOL collaborator Sergey Chernov in 2014. 
Compiled by Ioana Caloianu
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