Khupsamlian (Sam) Khaute is carrying on his family’s tradition of serving hot beverages and providing a gathering space for the community. Khaute taught English in his home country of India and in Vietnam before settling in the U.S. with his wife in 2013.

  When Khaute emigrated, he experienced barriers to employment that inadvertently led him to discover a love of coffee. Now he’s about to launch Jubilee Hall, a nonprofit organization and coffee shop dedicated to creating professional pathways for immigrants and refugees.

  The coffee roaster and chaiwala hails from Manipur, a state in northeastern India that is adjacent to Assam, the famous tea producer. While growing up, guests would drop by Khaute’s house to visit with his dad, who was a well-known community figure. It was customary to brew a fresh pot of chai for each guest. Between the visitors and the family’s own tea drinking habits, the household would brew between five and 20 pots per day.

  After settling in the United States, Khaute found it challenging to secure a job interview even though he was fluent in English and had completed higher education. He spent his first six months in Portland securing a work permit and applying for numerous jobs, but lacking job experience in this country, he never received calls back.

  Finally, he reached out to his small social circle. A friend connected him to the owner of the café where she worked, pitching Khaute as her replacement. Khaute was initially hesitant — he had never worked in the service industry, and he wasn’t drawn to a vocation that revolved around customer service as he was nervous coming into a new culture. The Iranian café owner empathized, having gone through a similar experience when he emigrated back in the ‘70s. Grateful for the opportunity, Khaute took the job and soon developed a newfound confidence while quickly learning a wide range of skills.

  Having developed an interest in coffee, Khaute decided to pursue a career in it. He knew he had a lot more to learn and wanted to break into the world of artisanal coffee, so he applied for a job at local roaster and café Seven Virtues. They considered his previous barista experience to be basic, so he was instead hired for a food prep position. Having made an inroad at a respected name in Portland’s third-wave coffee scene, Khaute offered to assist the head roaster in addition to his duties. This informal apprenticeship soon paid off; the head roaster moved out of state some months later and appointed Khaute to replace him.

  A panel of four photos of coffee beans, progressing through the roasting process

  The progression of the roasting process at Diaspora Coffee and Chai.

  Photos by Janey Wong

  Khaute now roasts under a business that he co-owns called Diaspora Coffee and Chai. Jubilee Hall is a nonprofit offshoot of the company. The split happened as a result of the pandemic, but it has turned out to be a rational solution. As a 501(c)(3), Jubilee will be able to enlist the help of volunteers and accept donations, but it cannot directly benefit the for-profit business.

  Conversely, Diaspora is free to lend resources to the nonprofit.

  “I created this coffee shop so they could learn without getting overwhelmed, as I was,” said Khaute.

  Chance meetings brought together the nonprofit’s three core board members. Khaute was hired at Seven Virtues at the same time as Jesse Prichard, and they soon discovered they shared a vision of creating a safe space where refugees and immigrants could get their first U.S. job experience and integrate into their newly adopted country. Years later, he connected with Christina Horrigan at a refugee round table event.

  Christina Horrigan and Jesse Prichard stand outside the Blackburn Center, distanced from each other and wearing masks

  Christina Horrigan (left) will have an administrative role at Jubilee Hall, a nonprofit coffee shop dedicated to creating professional pathways for immigrants and refugees. She will also advocate for trainees. Jesse Prichard (right) will be the lead instructor and curriculum designer for the program.

  Photo by Janey Wong

  As the newest addition to the core team, Horrigan will bring her nonprofit experience to the table; she has previously worked with youths in direct and indirect service capacities, and she also has skills in development and administration. She envisions her role as an administrative one, working on fundraising and securing grants, but is also excited to be an advocate for trainees.

  Prior to teaming up with Khaute and Prichard, she had actually conceptualized a community coffee shop space despite not having business experience or a background in coffee.

  “When I was in college in Atlanta, I was part of this church that met at a coffee shop, and I just love the idea of a coffee shop space being used to serve the community,” said Horrigan. The experience stuck in Horrigan’s mind, and an idea for Jubilee came to fruition. It was she who came up with the name and scouted out their soon-to-be location.

  “We have a lot of people that are very interested in helping, and we want to harness that power,” said Prichard.

  Exterior of Blackburn Center building

  Jubilee Hall will be located inside Central City Concern’s Blackburn Center.

  Photo by Janey Wong

  The café will be located inside Central City Concern’s Blackburn Center on East Burnside Street. The space is currently in its build-out phase, with a projected opening between fall and winter. Money from Jubilee Hall’s ongoing crowdfunding campaign is going toward the café’s construction, as well as initial costs and hiring. The team is also hosting a series of pop-up events throughout the year to raise funds and awareness for the café.

  There are three major pillars to Jubilee Hall’s curriculum that all tie in with each other: teaching language skills in an immersive setting, exposing trainees to American work culture and broader American culture, and providing barista and food service training.

  Most of the coffee shop’s profits will go directly to the trainees. Although coffee might be at the forefront from the consumer’s perspective, the nonprofit is really using the coffee shop as the vehicle for what they want to accomplish.

  “We want to create the space (for people) to learn English in a real-world setting,” Khaute said. “Classroom learning is really different when you come out to use it in the real world. A good example is myself: I grew up learning English in India and was even teaching it in Vietnam, but when I first came here, I was silent for months. … But what I realized is that working in a coffee shop is so great, even though I didn’t want to work in one at first. Customer service pushes me out of my comfort zone to learn and meet people from different backgrounds.”

  Prichard has a master’s degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and teaches citizenship classes at Lutheran Community Services Northwest. As both the lead instructor and curriculum designer, he has the flexibility to tailor the program as needed. He cites trying to simulate true-to-life scenarios for students as one of the biggest frustrations of a language teacher.

  “Every teacher has to work hard to try to realize that in a classroom setting,” he said. “One of the beautiful parts about this is … this is the classroom. I don’t have to envision the circumstances; we’re witnessing them.”

  Another fluid component of the café that will be the food they serve. Jubilee Hall will serve Diaspora coffee and chai, but since the team does not specialize in food, they’re leaving that section of the menu open to any talents that their trainees may bring.

  “Sure, you can teach (someone) how to build a scone, but we would love to have Iraqi honey cakes,” said Prichard. “It would be great to pull some of the expertise and knowledge from our trainees for food.”

  In addition to their plans to partner with other nonprofits that provide services for immigrants and refugees, Prichard said Jubilee Hall will work to foster connection with for-profit businesses in order to build a network of trusted partners where program alumni might be able to find long-term employment should they choose to pursue a career path in the service industry.

  “What a lot of our trainees probably want is more longer-term, stable employment, and so connecting with some businesses that can offer that would be great. At least to give them a few options — here’s some people you might want to contact,” said Prichard. “We’d like to get people through the program, not push them out before they’re ready, but we’d like to serve as many people as we can.”

  The instructor envisions a system of graded levels in each area of the curriculum, and depending on the needs of the trainee, they might require more time to master a certain module.

  In the coffee shop’s off hours, the team hopes to use the space for community events and to potentially teach citizenship classes and offer other services.

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