Yaya’s Shack is an Oasis in the Maiden City

A man and woman working in a café.
Karen and Andre Johnston, proprietors of Yaya’s Shack café in the Gasyard Centre, Derry~Londonderry.

A couple who lost their teenage daughter to cancer have started a social enterprise café in her memory in the Brandywell area of Derry~Londonderry, with funding from the Housing Executive.

Yaya’s Shack was established almost a year ago by Andre and Karen Johnston in the Gasyard Centre in the city, in memory of a very special young lady.

Their daughter, Alexandra, better known as Yaya, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer (Ewing’s Sarcoma) in January 2013 and given months to live, and against many difficulties she led a full life until she passed away aged just 16 in January 2018.

In memory of their daughter, Andre and Karen set up ‘Just Keep Swimming Yaya’ a registered charity aimed at supporting fathers and families affected by a cancer diagnosis.  They wanted to share their cancer journey and provide a listening ear for people who may have similar experiences.

A lease for a coffee shop then became available in the Gasyard Centre, and Andre and Karen decided to open the café with the name ‘Yaya’s Shack,’ a fitting way to remember their daughter.

As they have extensive knowledge of the catering industry (Andre was head chef in a local hotel before Alexandra became ill), they serve top notch food in a café with a lovely atmosphere.  

When Yaya’s shack was starting out the Housing Executive was able to provide funding through its Social Housing Enterprise initiative, allowing them to acquire the necessary kitchen equipment to get set up.

Andre’s wife, Karen, said:

“By providing us with £1,000 funding to purchase kitchen equipment at the outset, the Housing Executive has enabled us to provide a social enterprise cafe that has been well received in the local community.

“We’re delighted that our business has been successful so far, and we’re also delighted that we can help people going through difficult times when they or someone in their family is ill.”

Yaya’s Shack is a welcome oasis for anyone seeking advice and support who is living or dealing with cancer.  Oh, and they do great food too.

You can visit their website: www.justkeepswimmingyaya.com or contact them on Facebook at @Justkeepswimmingyaya or on Twitter: @SwimmingYaya

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