27 NOVEMBER 2021
Work for all: Our own story
Did you know that in 21st century Greece the majority of adults with disabilities do not work?
Are you aware that there is no organised system to support functional people with disabilities in the labour market and in their independent living?
Has anyone ever told you that after finishing their school education, most people with disabilities remain at home or are supported until the end of their lives by their family?
It was these concerns that drove the Association of Parents Guardians and Friends of People with Autism in Rethymnon to seek solutions to the integration in the labour market of the Association’s adult members. This is how our own story began –with the words of the children who mobilise us to take the first necessary steps for making the “work for all” goal a reality…
The first one was Spyros, who confessed to us: “I want to be a Chef!” Manolis shared with the rest of the children his dream, which is none other than “to cook for and feed poor children”. Rafaela, on the other hand, is overjoyed, because she will finally work in a hotel. Eirini, full of confidence, stresses that “she wants to have her own job, to be useful and to meet people.” Fragkiskos confided to us that he is already working in a bakery and is very happy about it, while Panagiotis, the tease of our Association’s company of friends, says that “life is beautiful when you work, because you have money for travel and company”! Stelios speaks about future plans: “Wouldn’t it be nice to have our own hotel and work there? Then we would continue to see each other and work together,” to which all the children respond with spontaneous applause. Michalis, the artist in the group, wants to become a barista… “In this way, I will meet many people,” he says, and his eyes speak of his will and strength to achieve his goal.
“Let’s all find a job that suits us!” says Manolis and all nine children agree. So, a dream has begun to come true…
The group of adults with disabilities who live in Rethymnon, Crete, and have already shared their school life as well as a friendship in special education structures, jumped at the opportunity to reunite, made possible by the implementation of the “Work for All” project.
Manolis, Fragkiskos, Eirini, Stelios, Spyros, Manolis, Rafaela, Michalis and Panagiotis got together again and took again their students’ seats, to take part in a programme of studies tailored to their educational needs.
The nine graduates of the GRANT Private Institute of Vocational Training, which is also the project partner, completed successfully the requisite training and obtained the relevant certifications through the innovative project “Work for All”, implemented under the Active citizens fund programme, with the Association of Parents, Guardians and Friends of People with autism in Rethymnon as project promoter.
Through the project, the project team was first trained in the management of people with disabilities by a team of experienced professors specialising in the hotel and food industry. The next step was the creation of the special training department. It was attended by 9 adults with autism, intellectual disability and other special educational needs, who managed not only to complete the training program but also to pass the exams successfully, thus acquiring the coveted diploma!
The project managed to change the landscape in certified workplace training for people with disabilities in Greece. This was achieved through a number of actions: First of all, use was made of good labour market integration practices that were transferred from the project’s Norwegian partner OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, primarily through the educational material created during the two-day seminar organised with the University’s associate Britt-Evy Westergård.
Labour market integration modules have also been launched in the activities of the “Kypseli” Social Cooperative Enterprise, using the supported work model. In addition, a series of dissemination and awareness-raising activities have been organised by the project for the general public, through open online information and training activities. In fact, the networking of organisations helped spread the message of the “Work for All” project to both adults with disabilities and to their families throughout the country, creating expectations of similar initiatives in the future.
Moreover, one of the project deliverables consisted in the creation of the graduates’ biographical profiles, so that can be fully prepared and competitive in seeking a job. Additionally, two publications will follow very soon: the first will be a guide to labour market integration for people with disabilities in the field of cooking and confectionery, containing simplified material (using the “Easy to Read” method) for use by people with intellectual disabilities at their work, and the second will be the programme manual, presenting in detail the steps of the project. Both publications will be available to the public. Moreover, the online meetings organised between executives, representatives of organisations and partners, helped inform more people and reach out to businesses in Crete that could help find work for people with disabilities.
Finally, the networking organised by the project between organisations that work with adult people with special educational needs, served as the first step in the overall process of claiming the right to labour market integration for people with disabilities in Greece, as it initiated cooperation and the exchange of experiences and good practices for empowerment and for supporting the right to work, while also consolidating special vocational training and education in adult life.
Most importantly, the “Work for All” project opened up the prospects of decent employment for people with disabilities, while at the same time paving the way for bridging the gap in labour market integration for many more people facing particular challenges. The vision thus becomes a reality – with a lot of hard work and thanks to the funding of the project by the Active citizens fund programme.
We hope that the “Work for All” project serves as the first essential step for people with disabilities to gain open access to the labour market, so that they can spread their wings and fulfil their dreams. Brick by brick, a new reality for Civil Society is being built. Let the right to work become be an institution:
Work for all… Love for all … A hug with open arms for all…