The ability to work, make a living and be part of our communities is something most of us take for granted – so it can be a shock to realize that not everyone can do this so easily. When volunteers from the Specialty Coatings and Vehicle Refinishes site in Barcelona, Spain, visited Teixidors, in nearby Terrassa, they saw for themselves how hard it can be for those with disabilities to integrate with society, and immediately wanted to help them.
Teixidors helps people with learning difficulties achieve economic independence, teaching them practical skills using traditional tools and methods. They spin the finest merino wools and cashmere and make a range of beautiful home and clothing products through strictly manual methods – their goods are truly hand-made. But the current economic situation in Spain means the center is fighting to avoid closure, which would see those it helps lose a valuable means of independence. "When we visited Teixidors, the people there explained to us what they do and it was clear they were very proud of their work", said project coordinator Noemi Sanchez. "I knew the difficulties they faced as I have a friend who works there, but seeing it in person gave us a shock as we realized how hard disabled people have to try to be useful to society."
After their visit to Teixidors, the volunteers agreed they needed to offer their support, and came up with a plan to provide some practical improvements. Firstly, a group returned to paint one of the site's community rooms, where workers keep their clothes, get changed and spend their breaks. Using paint generously supplied by Deco, the volunteers spent most of the day painting the room and turning it into a more attractive and restful space. They also applied to the Community Program for financial support to buy new, ergonomically-designed seats for the looms. These make working conditions much more comfortable and ensure the workers are less likely to suffer from any back, neck or head pain.
As part of the project, a group from the center visited the Specialty Coatings/Vehicle Refinishes site where they were given a presentation about the plant's history and a talk on the importance of safety and security. While it was a challenge to accommodate a group of disabled people on the site, it was a very special visit and everyone enjoyed themselves. A few days later, the volunteers were touched to receive a poem commemorating the event. "It was wonderful to see them smile and their gratitude after we painted the locker room, but it was also special to see how excited they were when they visited AkzoNobel. It was an excursion for them and such an enjoyable visit", recalled Noemi. "The most beautiful thing was to receive the poem – we could never have imagined such a lovely gesture. For us, the most important thing is also to know that the new seats we have provided will help them avoid any occupational injuries. Being at Teixidors was a different atmosphere, it kept our own egos out of the room. We saw that everyone deserves some space and time to learn, and how easy it can be to be happy with less."
The Specialty Coatings team together with their Vehicle Refinishes colleagues hopes to continue its association with Teixidors and has plans for future excursions with the workers, such as a trip to a museum or into the countryside.