Work is important in everyone’s life. In the lives of people with disabilities it’s all the more valuable: work gives them their dignity back and mobilizes their best resources.
Nowadays to get a decent job is not easy at all. So providing jobs to people with disabilities may look a luxury or an issue to be faced in better times. Notwithstanding, the troubles the disabled people must afford to get a job are the symptom of a failed social inclusion. Although in Italy a special legislation should grant them entrance into the job market, to get a job is still an impossible dream for many people with disabilities. Yet a job could give their lives a taste and would be the chance of a lifetime, as it is for everyone.
Since the beginning of the friendship with people with impairments the Community of Sant’Egidio has taken charge of their difficulties and expectations. One of the issues is work. A common experience is often an endless training process: pointless apprenticeships and training courses unable to provide any job opportunity.
We had a dream: persons with disabilities and non-disabled people committed together to building a better future. To do that, in Rome a social cooperative (Società Cooperativa Sociale “Pulcinella – Lavoro” a.r.l.), with the aim of helping people with disabilities enter the job market, has been established. At the beginning a tiny bistro was open where four disabled persons and some friends from the Community worked together. That choice proved adequate and after some years a restaurant was open in Piazza di S. Egidio (Trattoria degli Amici): high standard food in a warm environment; the menu reinterpreting the traditional roman cousin with some innovations.
Over the years the number of people with disabilities who work in the restaurant has increased: some work as kitchen porter or sous chef, others as waiters. A group of members of the Community volunteer to manage the restaurant and to collaborate with the disabled people who deliver the service at the table.
As a matter of fact, employing persons with disabilities is an advantage. The disabled people’s work is the core of the Trattoria: with their empathetic human trait and their love for work they make its identity unique. Therefore the restaurant is appealing and competitive. In the Trattoria there are profitability, competitiveness, productivity (just like in every successful enterprise), and there is an added ingredient in all the dishes of the menu: friendship. Which has an irresistible effect. On the back of the waiters’ vests there are printed these questions: “Capable? Fit? Able-bodied?”. These questions could be asked everybody. The answer on the vest front is simply: “Friend” (Amico). In a synthetic manner it expresses a new culture and a different notion of disability.
Over the years, the Trattoria degli Amici has inspired others with its mix of entrepreneurial courage and social innovation, not only in Italy.
In 2017, in the heart of Antwerp, the bar Amici, Coffee & Books has opened. In this case also people with disabilities take part in the running of the coffee shop. A cosy place, where one can have a coffee and delicious cakes, and have a look at the books as well. That bar is a model of inclusion of people with disabilities in the world of work.
Believing in disabled people’s potentialities means precisely investing in vocational training. Since the beginning training courses have been organized: people with disabilities from different backgrounds (hotel-managements schools, social services, charities) attended. Many of them are now employees in canteens, restaurants, or cafes.
Such an experience proves that people with disabilities are a resource for the world of work. Properly trained they can work in a professional way. Moreover they show genuine and profound motivations and they makes up for their impairments with their ability to enter into authentic relationship with the people. So they create a good working environment and a friendly relationship with the clientele which, especially in the catering sector, is an asset for the places they work in.