Disabilities, unemployment, isolation, poverty, senselessness, lack of projection in the future, lack of hope, shrinking social well-being… The number of individuals that see their lives jeopardized in one way or the other is increasing in today’s society. The most fragile, often persons with additional handicaps such as mental health difficulties and psychiatric illness, find themselves progressively excluded from their community, isolated in their psychic distress. They ultimately have no other option than being cared for if they are to survive.
To help counteract these tragic realities, T-INTERACTIONS has strived for many years to develop initiatives that promote the social and professional integration of persons that are handicapped by disabilities, by long-term unemployment and by social exclusion.
T-INTERACTIONS is a Swiss non-profit organization that endeavours to support individuals at risk of social exclusion to thrive as autonomous, productive citizens by offering concrete job and lodging opportunities, self-help and private time management as well as job coaching and social work supports. The association is active in the Geneva Republic and is collaborating with other Swiss agencies interested in its approach to social integration.
At the heart of T-INTERACTIONS’ initiatives are its social enterprises. These are regular commercial businesses that offer a certain number of jobs to persons that are socially excluded, or at risk thereof, within teams of regular industry professionals, supported by a job coach and a social worker. The association owns and operates a 41 bed hotel (Hôtel-Pension Silva in the Servette neighbourhood, near the international district), three year-round restaurants (Le Pyramus at The Botanical Garden, Le Café Cult in the Eaux-Vives neighbourhood and le Restaurant du Tennis at the Vernier Tennis Club), three seasonal restaurants (Les Yourtes aux fondues in Geneva and le Grand Saconnex and Le Glacier Inouit at Baby Plage on the Lake), a 45 bed Gîte de France and events complex (Le Domaine de la Pierre Bleu in Normandy, France), and graphic and printing business (D’Clic in Geneva) as well as a publishing house (Les Éditions des Deux Continents). For more details, www.T-INTERACTIONS.ch
While the association is involved in graphics, editing, printing as well as building renovations and maintenance, its main business thrust is the hospitality sector: restaurants, hotel and tourism. These businesses offer the advantage of a variety of employment possibilities, direct contact with and feedback from paying clients and status enhancing environments.
PRACTICAL, INDIVIDUALIZED SOLUTIONS
Exclusion is a cumulative phenomenon: no gainful employment, absence of adapted professional training possibilities, loss of one’s home, leisure, family, and ultimately loss of contact with one’s community, loss of competencies and of autonomy. T-INTERACTIONS takes all these aspects in consideration.
Present in the city, within its population and its economic life, the association aims at exploiting existing resources in various neighbourhoods and communities where its businesses and activities are developed.
The association helps create or recreate social networks by offering concrete means to respond to individuals’ needs with a view to help them take a place in society that is right for them, to play valued social roles and to be recognized within the community.
REAL JOBS, IN REAL RECOGNIZED AND QUALITY BUSINESSES
Jobs offered are real jobs, in real enterprises described beforehand that survive and thrive through their commercial success, without government assistance in their day-to-day operations. The association believes that “real” and “beautiful” work environments help transform broken persons, give them confidence, awaken pride in themselves and confer valued professional status, especially as they are surrounded by and working with top professionals in their fields. The products are also the top quality in their genre, while being affordable to a general public. If the service offered is not up to the highest quality standards, if all employees do dot give their best, the businesses fail and all lose their jobs. If the businesses thrive, all benefit economically through competitive wages and various amenities usually found in the hospitality sector. Thus, one’s involvement in a T-INTERACTIONS business becomes a real partnership and creates interdependence. The association believes this is a potent combination: its past performances demonstrates that many individuals get back on their feet and become, once again, productive citizens. As well, the job coach and social worker salaries are funded as part of business operations, not government funding. This also motivates all to perform at the highest levels, as in any private profit making enterprise.
HELP, NOT ASSISTANCE
Another problem with exclusion is the risk that persons being taken care of become “assisted” and thus take on such a role. To prevent as much as possible this phenomenon, T-INTERACTIONS adheres t a set of fundamental values. The various services offered by the association aim at supporting persons accomplish their plans and attain their goals by being “with” them, by accompanying them, not taking charge of them.
To do so, T-INTERACTIONS develops with each person a personal “self-fulfilment plan” in order to exploit the capacities of the persons being supported. The association encourages their participation, as well as their families and close ones. It deems it capital to place a person’s plan at the forefront, by respecting his or her personality, desires,, competencies and lifestyle. It is foremost important to detect the person’s positive potential, where resides the potential to build and realize personal projects.
By placing a premium on the person’s own trajectory, by encouraging the person’s self-determination, by offering different concrete possibilities for integration in real life, the association helps persons return to their communities as active members.
EVALUATION AND QUALITY ASSURANCE
Since its creation, T-INTERACTIONS has permanently evaluated itself through its quality assurance program as well as with outside consultants. Its quality assurance program is based on ISO 9001 and is comprised of documentation that describes all activities, methods and responsibilities as well as documentation that specifies proof and history of those activities.
This process translates T-INTERACTIONS’ values, finalities, goals, objectives, evaluations as well as concrete means to ensure the association is able to satisfy the needs of its clientele (persons being helped as well as commercial clients).
T-INTERACTIONS rehab clients are either persons whose mental health is jeopardized, are socially excluded or are disabled:
- - adults not getting old age pensions (AVS)
- - young persons in trouble socially
- - young persons with important difficulties in school
- - long-term unemployed at the end of their benefits
- - persons receiving help from the Canton or the City of Geneva
- - persons receiving disability benefits (Assurance Invalidité (AI) (OCAS)
- - persons looking for apprenticeship opportunities
- - persons looking for a place to live
- - persons in need of respite
More and more, the association is called upon to help young persons with mental health issues, with no life plans, out of school with no good prospects for social and professional education.
Professional staff: 43 persons
Social – professional support workers: 3 persons
Long-term unemployed (EDS): 25 persons
Auxiliary staff (disabled): 8 persons
Work placements: 3 persons
Apprentices: 4 persons
Students: 9 persons
Total: 95 persons
Persons lodged as pensioners (homeless, psychosocial difficulties, disabled, (AI, HG, LAVI): 37 persons
CONVENTION OCAS (for young persons with learning difficulties, social issues, disabilities) - 2013 – 2014
Apprentice positions (Preparation year, AFP, CFC, Practical training): 9 persons
Orientation positions Art. 15 LAI: 2 persons
Job Coaching Art. 17: 5 persons
MR-MNR on the job training: 3 persons
Total: 19 persons
31 active volunteers