human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

A new way into the labour market

Social economy give me an opportunity

My name is Manolo, I am 55 years old, I am married and I have two daughters who are 25 and 19 years old. I am very proud of my daughters because they have been able to finish their formal education, even university. I did not have the opportunity to finish school. When I was 17 years old I had to get a job to help my family.

My professional experience has been very varied. I started working at a vegetable warehouse where I stayed for 10 years. I also worked at a thermal power plant for a few months. Afterwards, I took on what I consider my profession: driver or transporter of all types of vehicles and loads (live animals, leather goods, etc). I have worked as a driver for 20 years.

In 2009, I finished my last transport job and my ordeal started: I did not have any more work or money. My wife does not work and, with two underage daughters, I found myself unable to provide for my family. For a few months, I only had the unemployment subsidy as income. Then I had to claim support from the welfare system, which was around 426 euros per month. For 3 years, that was the only income for my family.

I went to Caritas to ask for help. They helped me get energy supply for a month, and later they helped with food, which I have been enjoying for about 2 years. I also had to ask for help from relatives, friends, neighbours, to whom I still owe that support. The truth is that I do not know what I owe them. I would like some day to be able to return everything. Now I have the possibility and I give them back 50, 20 or 5 euros, out of responsibility and because it is my way of thanking them.

After 7 years unemployed, and having done everything I could to find a job, most of the time I simply felt too ashamed to go out and wanted to stay locked up at home. I was ashamed to see people who might think I just did not want to work or was not really looking for a job. It is very hard for me to put these feelings into words but, from the deepest part of my humanity, I felt shame, and I suppose also depression. I have experienced thoughts and emotions that nobody should go through and that I had not dared sharing with anyone, not even with my wife. Things like not providing better meals or clothes for my family or not being able to buy books for my daughters hurt me terribly.

Suddenly, one day I saw the light at the end of the tunnel: Caritas gave me an opportunity at its “Moda re” project. First, I received a call from the Caritas Employment Program to meet with the head of the “Moda re-” company at Caritas Leon, because there was a job that suited my profile. This was my first job interview in 2 years. For some reason I did not feel nervous, I felt proud, even satisfied, about having at least the opportunity of an interview. When they told me they had chosen me, I felt a lot of excitement, joy and hope.

Today I have been with the company for 6 months. I have solved some of my problems and some others I hope to fix in the near future. This job first gives me dignity, as a person, as a father, and as a husband. It also fulfills my desire to work, because I have always felt like a worker.

What I like the most about this job is… everything! I am very impressed by the fact that the company is very different to others. I value very much the fact that I work also on becoming a better person, on being respectful towards other cultures, my colleagues, and the people who donate clothes to us. I’m working on my personal values and that is a plus that I did not have before. I like it even if it means making an extra effort.

For the future, I am excited about continuing to work here. I hope to continue being part of this company, but I also understand the philosophy behind it, and that my post has to become a vacant so that another person in my previous situation also has this opportunity.

Now I am working with my boss to improve my skills and become a better worker. I am preparing myself to find new job opportunities elsewhere suited to my experience. I would like to be a good example to those who are now going through difficult times and help show them there is hope for them too.