News / Economy

Empowering Employees with Disabilities

Empowering Employees with Disabilitiesi
X
June Soh
March 19, 2014 3:01 PM
Lifelong intellectual disabilities often can hinder a person's ability to acquire skills or get a job. The people who run the Wildflour catering company near Washington, DC know that, so they have made a special effort to hire people with disabilities. VOA’s June Soh visited Wildflour and learned that the company gives its employees marketable skills, and sends them home with more than just a paycheck. Amy Katz narrates.
June Soh
Lifelong intellectual disabilities often can hinder a person's ability to acquire skills or get a job. The people who run the Wildflour catering company near Washington, D.C. know that, so they have made a special effort to hire people with disabilities. The company gives its employees marketable skills, and sends them home with more than just a paycheck.

Philippe Keefe is proud of himself for being able to do many things. He says, “I cut red potatoes, I do some cilantro, I peel carrots, I grate carrots, I cut peppers,-- "

And the list goes on! Kerry O’Brien loves to cook. She says, “It is like a dream job. I love to be a chef one day, to be a proud daughter of my parents, of course.”

O'Brien and Keefe work at Wildflour, a café and catering business in Chantilly, Virginia, where more than half of the 70 employees have intellectual disabilities. The non-profit corporation trains them to work in kitchens and restaurants.

Alberto Sangiorgio, Wildflour's general manager, says, “They work around the tables two to three months for each procedure, they do dishwashing, they do cutting things, they do many, many things. At the end of the process, it takes four to five years to do that, they are capable to work at any restaurants, any place like everybody else.”

The employees, who range in age from 22-60, make minimum wage - $7.50 an hour, and Wildflour offers them time off for illness and vacation.

Paul Miller, who has been a chef here for six years, says “They love coming to work. They love all their co-workers and they take to tasks like you won’t believe. It takes a while but after a while they go right to it. It is very rewarding for me.”

Fernanda Rodriguez, who trains them to pack biscuits, agrees. She says, “I think that they teach me more than I teach them. They are very positive, they are very affectionate. They are happy all the time.”

Veronique Keefe sees positive changes in her son, Philippe. She says, “He is much calmer, he is happy, he is energetic. He is happy with other people working there. So socially it is good for him to be here."

Richard Harrison is a regular at Wildflour café. He says the food is wonderful, but that's not the only reason he comes here.

“I appreciate the approach that the restaurant has taken and hiring those people," he said. "My experience with them is a great experience."

Chopping and packing skills aside, the job gives the employees something perhaps more valuable - a sense of self-esteem. John Stephens, who has Down syndrome, has worked at Wildflour since 2008.

He says, “This job is the key to unlocking all kinds of dreams not just to be in culinary but to be anything they want to be. This place has given me everything they can to make sure I have a steady life.”

Stephens says he wants to be an actor. And once an opportunity arises, he is confident he can act as a chef, as well.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9247
JPY
USD
118.78
GBP
USD
0.6657
CAD
USD
1.2190
INR
USD
62.395

Rates may not be current.