Recently, I was asked to be a trustee of Team Domenica, a charity that helps youngsters with learning disabilities find meaningful work. I have a family friendship with Rosa Monckton, the founder. I hesitated slightly because I worried that I would not be able to give the time and commitment needed. But I admire Rosa so much for dedicating her time and astonishing energy to the cause that in the end I couldn’t refuse.
I hope my experience in the hospitality industry will be of specific use to her in the café set-up in Brighton, where there is also a training centre. It is nice to think that my skill sets will on this occasion be as useful as my money. I need to spend more time there so that I have a better understanding of the challenges their candidates face, as I see my involvement as being for the long haul. I am under no illusions about how hard it will be to accomplish Rosa’s aim of helping young disabled adults to find regular employment.
Some time ago I filmed a programme for the BBC about the difficulties faced by veterans, many of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Naïvely, I imagined that it would just be a matter of getting businesses onside. My starting point was the hospitality industry in Britain, as every hotelier moans about the difficulty of finding older and more reliable candidates who take their jobs seriously and are interested in working long-term.
But I had not taken into account just how debilitating the veterans’ mental health problems could become even after periods when they appeared to be better; how those suffering struggle to be honest with work superiors and colleagues, and so appear unacceptably and incomprehensibly erratic; and how much support and mentoring would be required.
Our occasional successes were soon tempered by the dawning understanding of just how intractable the problems were and how little headway we were making, despite our fervent efforts.
At least that has prepared me a little better for the job I have taken on at Team Dominica, and enabled me to appreciate different measures of success. Rosa tells me that we have many committed corporate partners – just as I had with the veterans – who are prepared to change the parameters of their expectations in order to give these young people a chance at some of the advantages we take so much for granted: the right to work and be fulfilled, to have friendships, to contribute.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection