Last week COCO Cafe had the great honour of catering a citizenship ceremony at Beban Park. The ceremony welcomed about 250 new citizens home to Canada. That's 250 members to our community! Melanie, COCO's general manager hosted a round table discussion with some of the new members of our Canadian community and talked about some of the obstacles that people may face when trying to integrate themselves into a community. When we are able to participate in these types of events it really makes us take a look at our community, and ourselves for that matter. Are we all doing our part to be the most inclusive society that we can? I know we all try, but what more can we do to help out here at home, in Canada?
In the beginning one of the founding members of Cedar Opportunities Co-operative said, "I think as a society we talk the talk about inclusion, but really, we aren't a very inclusive society".
It was nearly five years ago that we first opened our doors, and our first customers trickled in. We went about our days building the foundation for what would one day be a very central part of Cedar's community. As time went on we provided more and more opportunities for people in Cedar, and the surrounding areas, with developmental disabilities to gain real life work experience.
A few months ago General Manager, Melanie Cadden found herself feeling sad. Why, you may be asking yourself? Her job managing a busy, well loved, and subsequently very successful social enterprise should leave her happy, shouldn't it? Excited! Even fulfilled. She felt this way because she had a stack of 24 resumes of people with some form of a developmental disability on her desk. Thats 24 people who were looking for employment, and those are only the people who applied at COCO Cafe! 24 people who were looking for a chance. A chance at success. A chance to be a part of something. If you give these people the time, and the training they will be some of the most dedicated and successful individuals you have ever employed. "Each person deserved a chance to be part of a team, to feel valued," she thought to herself.
Cedar Opportunities Co-operative is now offering a 100 hour work experience program that offers on the job training, food safety, resume building, and interview training. In 2016 we will see 12 people with developmental disabilities graduate our program. Thats 12 people who will now have a resume in hand, and 100 hours of real life work experiences, that a lot of people with developmental disabilities don't have. Why don't they have this opportunity? Because people aren't willing to take the time to train someone.
This is difficult for me for a few reasons:
1. The work ethic that people with developmental disabilities have is absolutely amazing. These are people who DO NOT get the opportunity to have jobs a lot of the time. Why? Because as a community we look at them and we see limitations, we see disability. If you take a moment and you focus on the ABILITY that someone has, the opportunities are endless. But you have to take that chance, and take the time to help someone create a niche in your business.
2. The positivity that people with developmental disabilities have is unparalleled. This is a huge portion of our society that are thankful to just have a job, no matter what it is! A person with a specific skill set that is able to be a part of a team, who is just happy to be included, I promise you, they will bring up the whole moral of a team.
3. The dedication you will see from a person that you give the simple gift of an opportunity to will have dedication that is so rare it is almost impossible to find. Evidently, if you take the time to train a person to excel at a niche in your business, you will SAVE money in the long term. You will save because you will have a long term dedicated employee, you will see a much lower turnover rate in this niche position, and the quality of work will always increase.
I urge you to give someone an opportunity. An opportunity to surprise you with their work ethic, positivity, and their dedication. I urge you to include everyone in our community, and I urge you to include people in your work community. Please contact us if you would like more information on how you can sponsor someone in our work experience program (the cost of the program is $1500 per person, and we are always looking for sponsors!) Alternately if you would like to interview one of our first graduates please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an interview with someone who will help you to become an inclusive work place.