When I finally met up with Michael, one of the co-founders of Café Art, I learnt that this was more than just a programme made to sell pieces of art work and photography (in the form of a wall calendar) for financial support. Much more than that, it was about giving London's homeless a sense of dignity, reassuring them that despite their seemingly dire situation, they were still individuals capable of producing work which people would pay for.
The Café Art concept has its beginnings in Canada, where Paul Ryan, the other co-founder of Cafe Art, had previously supported similar programmes to help the homeless in Vancouver. Since its inception in 2012, Cafe Art has grown immensely in London: now supported by more than 20 cafés in London (including Taylor Street Baristas, which is itself a chain of 9 cafés across the UK), Café Art's influence has also extended beyond cafés, with work exhibited by The Guardian, Southwark Cathedral and the auction house Christie's, supported by the Royal Photographic Society. Café Art has also inspired an exchange with New York based freshart, cross-exhibiting works from both organisations across the Atlantic.
Surely this is evidence enough that giving doesn't mean losing out.
Hence our underlying belief: being a socially responsible business doesn't mean we are not profitable. And it doesn't only mean charity. In fact, quite the opposite: we're convinced that a business that is responsible to its staff and the community in which it works is one that will do better, not worse, than one which is fully profit-obsessed.
Here's a line that's been quoted a lot, but perhaps never too often: "Be the change you want to see in the world."
While Gandhi may have had his fair share of controversy, the truth behind his words is undeniable.
If you're interested in supporting The Press Office Café on this cause, in terms of working with us on the ground in Yangon to facilitate the organisation and running of a similar Café Art programme with cafes in Myanmar, please get in touch!
A list of cafés in London supporting the Café Art programme can be found here.