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In Russia, Voerman actively supports “DownSideUp” – a charity foundation that provides professional assistance to children with Down syndrome. In the 20 years of the Foundation’s existence, Voerman has been providing material aid, transportation and support to their various social events for over 10 years.
Unfortunately, the social stigma concerning people with disabilities is still a major problem in Russia, making it difficult for people with special needs not only to socially integrate, but also to even become part of a functioning society, and we should change that.
– says Dennis van Diemen, Country Manager Russia.
This is why Voerman International Moscow, with the guidance of DownSide Up, has started a career guidance project for young people with Down syndrome.
Starting from August 2016, Voerman International Moscow has employed two trainees – Maria (18) and Gregory (19), becoming the first commercial organization in Russia to have done this. The two youngsters are currently employed for handling administrative tasks in the office and have already shown fantastic results in terms of social integration. To put it in the words of their appointed mentor, Elena: “At first, they (Maria and Gregory) were very shy and afraid of failure, which made things a bit complicated. However, when they realized that our colleagues adore them and felt their support, they simply blossomed!”
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»The company’s new trainees are doing great and say to really enjoy being part of the Voerman team
The idea for this career guidance project came to Dennis van Diemen 4 years ago, when DownSide Up representatives explained that children with Down syndrome in Russia don’t have any options to study or work after finishing a special needs schooling program until they become 8 years old. “The fact that there are such programs for children is excellent, of course, but I thought: What’s next for these kids when they grow up? How can we reach a point that people with Down’s can lead a full life, feeling needed? And that’s how it started”, says Dennis.
The company’s new trainees are doing great and say to really enjoy being part of the Voerman team. However, with such a great new responsibility the company faces some challenges – to provide long-lasting psychological support and find new opportunities for self-realization. Perhaps Voerman International’s biggest challenge is spreading this news through the Russian society. This social integration program should become a widely known and accepted phenomenon. By setting this important example, Voerman is trying to change the social perception and attitude towards disabled people in Russia, which as mentioned earlier, should in the end be seen as simply being part of the world.
In a recent edition of the Russian magazine by DownSideUp, Voerman was presented as we successfully round off the first stage of our project. We are very proud to be the first commercial organization in Russia to start working with people with Down syndrome. We will soon publish a story about our collaboration with this great charity in support of children with Down Syndrome #DownSideUp!