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Turkish municipality employs youth with Down syndrome

15 March 2010 [12:45] - TODAY.AZ
The municipality-run Müzisyenler Kahvesi (Musicians Teahouse) along the shores of Istanbul’s Golden Horn differs from similar establishments by employing waiters with Down syndrome.

In order to help these developmentally disabled employees carry out their job duties, tables in the teahouse have different colors that match the aprons of the waiters. Customers do not give their orders directly to the waiters, but mark them down on the bills they hand to diners.

Started three weeks ago, the teahouse is a pilot effort as part of the Eyüp Municipality’s “Gel Eyüp’te Yok Engel” (Come, There are No Disabilities in Eyüp) project for youths with Down syndrome or mental health problems. It has provided a living waiting tables to four young people with Down syndrome.

If the pilot project proves successful, the municipality plans to expand it to other facilities it operates. If the project expands, all of the youths employed under it will receive benefits for their work as well.

Dressed in blue, pink, green and yellow aprons corresponding to the tables they wait and the bills they hand to customers, Melek, Ahmet, Erkan and Duygu are paid 25 Turkish Liras per week for the job. They work Saturdays and Sundays from noon to around 5 or 6 p.m. On weekdays, they attend special schools where they are educated in reading and writing, among other subjects.

Ahmet is 25 years old and has previously worked at McDonald’s and various other jobs at municipality facilities. He said he is very happy with the teahouse project. “This job turned out to be very good for us. I am close to people here,” he said. “I have worked at other places before, but this is the first job for some of our friends. We want this to continue.”

Duygu graduated from the handicrafts division of Selahattin Korkmaz Practice School and attended the private Altın Adım Education and Rehabilitation Center for three years. “Duygu is able to go to the grocery store on her own, but she cries when she returns home because the people outside mock her,” her mother, Şükran, said. “She says she can handle herself and she gets very angry with the people who mock her. I am happy that she has a job. She was getting very bored at home on weekends. This is kind of fun for her.”

“Young people with Down syndrome become more active the more they interact with society,” said Orhan Yılmaz, the unit director for the teahouse. “We have received positive responses from other municipalities too. We all want the project to continue.”

/Hurriyet Daily News/

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