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Global Economy

Against the pace of the world

Turtles are notorious for not being particularly fast. But the animals also transmit a kind of deceleration when you watch them. Maybe that's why Enrico Pedemonte and Silvia Stagno chose the name of their "Bed & Breakfast" in the center of Genoa: "La sosta della tartaruga" – the turtle retreat. And maybe you only come up with a name like that when you're forced in life to accept the speeds of people who have nothing to do with the speed of the world.

A life at your own pace

The couple has gotten used to this for 23 years. At that time Giulia was born, her daughter – with Down syndrome. It's not a disease, it's a chromosome abnormality. The 21st chromosome occurs three times in the body instead of twice – that's why this genetic phenomenon is also called trisomy 21 in medical terms. There are about five million people who are born with such a deviation.

People with Down syndrome live at a different pace – perhaps because their bodies often don't allow them to go faster. Finding an employer for these people who offers them permanent employment is often almost impossible in our performance-oriented society, which feels like it is running at supersonic speed.

Cooperative called "Society of Turtles"

Pedemonte knows that too. "It's not easy to find a job these days, especially for these young people," he says. Together with my wife, he wanted to create a place "where Giulia and young people like her can fully express their qualities and are not disadvantaged by their limitations".

It should also be a workplace that offers security over a longer period of time. "Because very often internships for young people with disabilities are problematic and without any continuity," says Pedmonte.

Before they could start their own "Bed & Breakfast", the couple founded a social cooperative, the "Society of Turtles". According to the website, their goal is to create "self-supporting jobs" for young people who "should play a productive role". This is only possible "if you adapt the work to the peculiarities of the people and don't try to force them into a context that doesn't suit their rhythm".

The family invested for the first time

According to Pedemon, the initial investments were essentially borne by his family. The government also provided support for the "Bed & Breakfast" in Genoa, where 60 percent of the workforce is made up of people with disabilities. The project received a grant of around 100,000 euros for social enterprises, as well as support from the Liguria region to set up several training positions.

Now it could start. The family acquired two large properties in a historic building in the heart of Genoa. Four apartments were created, a kitchen for self-catering and a suite with a total of 16 beds, as well as a shared breakfast room. Although Pedemonte had never had anything to do with tourism in his life, the finished "B&B" was ready after a year.

"Our goal is to cover operating costs and we believe that this can be achieved in 24 to 36 months," says Pedemonte. Her daughter Giulia has nothing to do with it – she concentrates on her work. She likes the fact that she is taken seriously and that she is working towards independence. The rather quiet young woman has asked not to be in direct contact with the guests – that's why she makes the rooms.

It shouldn't make any difference

In 2008, the UN declared inclusion a human right for people with disabilities. "Inclusion" means that everyone should have the opportunity to participate in social life in a self-determined manner. In everyday life this means that people with disabilities do not have to adapt – but that the environment is equipped in such a way that everyone can live in it on an equal footing.

Giulia's father also wants that. In his house, it shouldn't make any difference whether someone has a disability or not. "I want the guest to arrive here, book through a travel portal and leave a comment on their departure saying 'nice facility, a stone's throw from the center, great breakfast'."

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