The Miracles Shop

Project location: Italy
Project start date: March 2016 - Project end date: February 2017
Project number: 2016-011
Beneficiary: Soc. Cooperativa Sociale Alzaia

The Cooperative ALZAIA comes from the desire to promote the training and employment of disadvantaged people, with particular attention to the employment of people with Down Syndrome, minors with family discomforts, unaccompanied foreigners and severely marginalized adults. A study shows that only 13% of the people with Down Syndrome works with a regular contract, while 18% is on an internship. Employment can offer many more benefits to a person with Down Syndrome than simply being a source of income. And it is on this front that the need for a stronger commitment and innovative interventions by non profit organizations, companies and institutions is highlighted. It was decided to invest specifically in the area of commerce, through the commissioning of a store opened in the center of Pisa, in the beautiful Piazza del Duomo, close to the Tower.

According to the study, almost all children and teenagers with Down syndrome go to school (97% up to 14 years of age), but when they grow up it becomes increasingly difficult to find a place in society: one adult with Down Syndrome out of four stays at home and does not carry out any activity. With the increase of the average age of people with Down Syndrome, working has become even more important. Working gives people a sense of purpose, feelings of competence and pride, while offering the opportunity to learn new things and meet new people. Working can meet the need for an individual to be productive, able to promote his independence, improving self-esteem, and allowing an active participation in social life. The high rate of unemployment of people with Down Syndrome is fundamentally due to laws on mandatory work placement for disabled people which are not applied, to the presence of prejudice and to the absence of assistance from specialized staff who may help the companies, especially during the initial phase of integration in the workplace. So it is necessary to work both on the legislative and the operative front. As for the latter, social cooperatives can have an important role because they unite economic to social results.

Concluded their schooling, most of the young people with Down Syndrome begin to live in a kind of isolation at home. Suddenly they no longer have commitments, but a sort of early retirement. Many people with Down syndrome possess extraordinary work ethic, and a lively personality. Unfortunately, only 13% of them works. For this reason, it was decided to intervene with the following actions:

1. the creation of a permanent training workshop, where every year at least 4 young people with Down Syndrome will be included;

2. the construction of paths of social and working autonomy

3. the start of a new business, with staff with Down Syndrome, an organic/fair-trade food store, with also non-food products.

Project Details

Inside the Square of Miracles, very close to the Tower of Pisa, the Shop of Miracles will be opened. Two activities are to be carried out:

• organic/fair-trade food store (biscuits, jams, etc.) and non-food products (clothing, beauty products, gadgets, etc.).

• ad hoc routes for families with disabled children with special tourist guides.

This is an innovative service to ensure tourist assistance and more to families with disabled children. The biggest challenge will be to hire for the shop mostly disabled staff. So the tutoring activity will be essential. The decision to focus on running a shop was also born from an opportunity not to be missed, that is the possibility of having the only shop in the beautiful Piazza del Duomo of Pisa, just near the Tower of Pisa, visited by approximately 800,000 people every year.

The actions of the project are different, each one with a specific purpose and expected outcomes:

• Action 1: Creation of a permanent training workshop (4 trainees with Down Syndrome included);

• Action 2: Creation of paths of social and work autonomy (to increase the autonomy of young people with DS)

• Action 3: Starting a new business - Miracles Shop opening. At least 80% of sold products will come from organic or fair-trade paths.

The project will last 12 months and the shop will be opened by the end of 2016.

The Miracle Shop is a project aimed at promoting the social and professional autonomy of young people with Down Syndrome, through the commissioning of a store opened in the center of Pisa, in the beautiful Piazza del Duomo, close to the Tower. The Opera Primaziale Pisa, an institution founded to administer the monuments of Piazza del Duomo of Pisa, has decided to give a social trait to the Square. Pisa will represent an example of promotion of the non-profit sector through the free loan of a small shop to sell products for tourists.

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