By Prudence Minayo
In our society, people with neurological conditions tend to be overlooked if not misunderstood. Getting a diagnosis is also difficult in this part of the world. This is what prompted Diana Ayoo to travel to the US with her first born daughter Ayira to get a diagnosis to her condition. It is this diagnosis that would change the course of her life and eventually inspire Diana to open a cafe named after her daughter.
Here is the story of Ayira’s Neuro Soul Cafe founder as told by WoK.
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Getting the Diagnosis
Diana is a mother of three daughters, with Ayira, six-years-old being her first born. After visiting the United States, their daughter was diagnosed with a rare developmental delay condition called Primrose Syndrome. Whenever, she would take her to Boston Children’s Hospital, she would drop her at a daycare that was all inclusive. It catered for children who were abled diffidently.
As she would relax, she noticed that across the street there was a center that helped people with disorders perform meaningful tasks. This encouraged her to want to relocate to a place where her daughter will receive wholesome growth.
Opening Ayira’s Neuro Divergent Cafe
As they were about to relocate, the Covid-19 pandemic hit forcing them to re-think their decision. She decided to open a cafe where the neuro-divergent would converge and be themselves. Neurological conditions include dyslexia and celebrate palsy among others. The idea was also to employ people with neurological conditions.
Some people did not think this was a good idea since when people went to a cafe, they wanted their orders on time and in the right way. Her sister, a businesswoman herself, encouraged Diana to do it. According to her, it was better to fail rather than not try it at all.
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Diana, who worked for one of the blue chip companies in the country, opened the restaurant in the middle of the pandemic. The challenge was finding the neuro-diverse employees and luckily she got connected with someone who works for an organization that caters for them.
Ayira’s cafe is colorful, spacious and lined with colorful potted plants and paintings. The wooden furniture and decorations give it a serene atmosphere, which is what the founder wanted. She wanted a place where people would have a wonderful relaxing time without loud music. People can instead sip on their drinks as they paint colorful pictures. In days when they are not busy, patrons are allowed to paint for as long as they want since it is believed that painting is therapeutic. Appointments are booked on busy days.
The place is not just common with neuro-divergent people. It is also perfect for those wishing to go on dates, throw birthday parties or just have a relaxing environment. The entrepreneur received help to design the menu from a chef of Talisman Hotel and she did the decorations herself.
The 2022 Mental Awareness Day organized by the Ministry of Health was hosted at the cafe.
Diana is an engineer by profession, who graduated with a Bachelors degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. She currently works as a solutions sales lead at Vodaphone Enterprise. She also holds a Global Executive MBA in International Business from United States International University.
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