Those of you have been following us since the beginning of our Global Giving drive might remember Marija from a previous report. She was a resident of a local orphanage until she had to leave on her 18th birthday. She experienced every kind of abuse and neglect imaginable in her early years and leaving the orphanage only added to the misery she was exposed to. Now at the age of 23 she lives in an old age home because this is the only place that the social system has to accommodate adults with disabilities. Marija has been a KEC beneficiary for almost 5 years. During that time our staff has worked hard to provide Marija with the on-going support that she needs to cope with daily life. Working with people with such backgrounds is not a straight line to success rather a lot of ups and downs on the path to something resembling stability. It is hard work for the professionals and especially for Marija as she navigates this complicated harsh world.
But in the last few years Marija’s world has expanded and a small window of success has opened for her. As part of our effort to find as many jobs for people with disabilities KEC is always on the look out for new businesses to partner with. So when a cake shop with a cult following for its artistic cakes opened, KEC’s staff dropped in to see if there could be a sweet future for the two organizations. Needless to say that the wonderful staff at Mandarin was willing to bring on board a person with disabilities and Marija was our woman. For the past two years, Marija has been helping in the kitchen of this elite cake shop in the center of town.
The KEC professional team is constant contact with Marija providing her with the support she needs to succeed in her new work environment. As anyone who has worked in the culinary world knows it is grueling work for the whole collective. Marija quickly learned the job but had a harder time understanding and handling the social relations working with the other staff members. She very often wanted to quit the job because of these inter-personal relationships. Most of these crises arose from Marija’s feeling like she was not as good as the others because she grew up in an orphanage and had experienced so many bad things in her life. She thought that people dismissed her and didn’t appreciate her work and efforts because of her background. Many hours of conversations and counseling were necessary to keep Marija at the job and help her resolve these problems.
A month ago the staff director invited Marija to an all staff outing outside of Belgrade. Marija immediately decided that she did not want to go because she assumed that no one really wanted her there and that if she went she would be all by herself. Again, with the support of the KEC professional staff Marija decided to go on the trip. When she came home she was ecstatic about how much she fun she had with her co-workers. It was the first time in her life that she saw a nice hotel, a beautiful meal and felt the warmth of people around her who valued her for her hard work and commitment.
So when you are in town, stop by the Mandarin cake shop. Tell them that Marija from the kitchen sent you. Let them know that you love their cakes (there is no way you won’t) and let them know that you appreciate their commitment to helping people with disabilities experience the joy of work and friendship.
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