The Academy of Independence
The Academy of Independence is the training and work program at Albergo Etico. It lasts three years, the time it takes to achieve an actual autonomy.
The expression “Academy of Independence” was chosen to make it clear how the Albergo Etico is made up of people with different roles and tasks, in which there is a hierarchy and respect for the superior figure which is essential not only for learning to acquire one’s autonomy gradually, but also to avoid potentially dangerous errors.
At the same time, the atmosphere in the work environment is one of strong camaraderie, in which, regardless of the mistakes made or the misunderstandings that have been generated during the day, the ritual of the meal is shared, which dissolves all tension, and takes moments for a hug.
Just like in a military academy, a uniform is shared and a “corporation” is represented.
The widespread presence in the city of young people who move around in uniform stimulates the community to reflect and ask questions.
It is also a way to broaden the reflection on the job placement of young people with special needs and to increase the number of entrepreneurs willing to welcome young people among their staff.
A gradual path
The Academy is a gradual path through which the kid learns to perform all the tasks of the hotel and restaurant (artificial nest) and replicates them in the family context (his own nest). The program has been planned to last three years because, based on our experience, we think this is the right amount of time to achieve actual autonomy.
Kids learn not to go home to sleep, but to sleep in the staff rooms. This is a great opportunity to cut the umbilical cord with the family and learn to live with their peers. It is amazing how these self-management opportunities empower and motivate them.
In the hotel guesthouse there are no assistants and/or educators, but only work colleagues. The more experienced and mature become tutors for the newcomers. Giacomo, who came for a three-week internship, lived in a mini-apartment with Niccolò. After this experience, returning home, he told his mother how he felt ready to go and live alone. It is obvious that this is not the case, but this is the thought of almost all of today’s twenty-year-olds. The mother, who has had to manage moments of fear and worry (imagine her son finishing the evening service at a restaurant, in a city he doesn’t know, and goes for a drink with other colleagues and then returns with a colleague in an unsupervised apartment that, like any self-respecting teenager, forgets to make a call to his mother), though attenuated by reassurance (Niccolò called to warn that they had returned home), had to overcome moments of strong emotional impact. This mother could react by closing up like a hedgehog or rejoice in her son’s new autonomy and spur him to overcome other limits. Which she did.
Daria, Guglielmo’s mother, speaking of her son’s three-week internship experience at the Albergo Etico, defined it as an Erasmus (university program that allows you to attend one year abroad). They live in Switzerland and they sought, organized and lived this experience as a moment to start learning about autonomy (just like an Erasmus).
The mother moved to Asti for three weeks, but in an independent accommodation. Guglielmo returned home, stronger and more aware of his own resources, looking in the mirror and said «You don’t see so much that I have Down’s Syndrome!». It is an experience that they rated as very positive and that they will try to replicate in Switzerland. This is the contagious spirit that the Albergo Etico aims to have.
“We need to be clear: The quality of a civilization can be measured by the respect it has for its weakest members. There is no other criterion. ”
Jérome Lejeune, pioneer in Trisomy 21
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