Hello, my little Christmas elves and Grinches!
It’s December and I can definitely feel the weather getting crispy, even here in Italy. Thank you dear Latvians for sending me pictures of snowy sceneries – I show them to all my friends and then happily go on with my day without having to worry about freezing my face off.
Anyways, maybe I’m still in the Thanksgiving vibes or already starting to feel very giving, but I want to dedicate this blog to my experience in La Bottega della Loggetta, as my volunteering there has sadly finished. And for the future volunteers, if you get the opportunity to work there, – here is what to expect.
First, what is La Bottega della Loggetta?
Basically, it’s a shop, located in P.zza II Giugno, n. 7, Faenza, Italy, where you can purchase organic and local products, but with a twist – you will be attended by people with disabilities who will give their all for you to get the best experience and all the products that you need. This shop is part of GRD (Genitori Ragazzi con Disabilità) Faenza association and serves also as a workshop as it teaches the workers very valuable skills such as communication skills with customers, warehouse tasks, accounting, hygiene and cleaning rules and others.
What to expect in the Bottega as a customer?
First, it is located in this beautiful building in the center of Faenza, surrounded by tall palm trees (my favorite) and ancient looking architecture. The door gets lit up when it gets dark so that it would be easier to find.
Then you will find a hand sanitizer right in front of the door as they take Covid very seriously. If someone is behind the cash register and not in the room further inside, they will very politely greet you and ask you to disinfect your hands.
The schedule of the employees changes every day so you cannot really predict which of the guys/girls you will get to talk to that day. On my days there I usually worked together with Alberto and Gigi, seeing the others from time to time. Pop up visits from the guy’s families or the other employees are also quite common.
Then you get to explore all the unique things sold in the store – you can get everything there starting from colorful pasta to organic skincare. If you need something specific – there is always someone waiting behind the safety glass at the cash register waiting for your inquiries. If they forget where some things are, there is always Annalisa or Jennifer or others who are always watching over the shop and the employees. Maybe try to give them the exact sum, if it’s in cash, as you might stay there a little bit longer than you expected if you don’t. But you will surely experience a sweet appreciation moment of humanity, as suddenly your change will become a group project and the main task of the evening.
What to expect as a volunteer?
Well, this is the best part, as you really get the insight of how shops in general and also shops like these work, not even mentioning experience working with people with disabilities.
- You will get asked personal questions very early on and very often
I could not communicate a lot with the guys at the beginning because I was just starting to learn Italian, but one of the first questions Gigi asked me was if I have a boyfriend. It is very important to know about your family and romantic interests and they love updating you about their ones just as much. I have seen pictures, several stories about their partners and where their families live. Oh, and also pets. Once, a girl asked me if I have any pets and after a negative answer she asked me: ‘But do you have a boyfriend?’ They are on the same scale here.
- Respect the schedule
First thing they usually do when I arrive at 16:00 is write their plan for the evening, their favorite part being the 15 min pausa (break). Annalisa dictates the times and tasks, spells them out if needed and then we get to work. If the schedule says pausa – then it’s pausa, doesn’t matter if there are clients who are waiting to be attended. If you finish something faster or want to switch some things, be ready for a lot of questions and general distress in the building. Crossing out the finished tasks is the best part and has to be done very attentively.
- You will make things
Yes, you will be a part of the activity of making bomboniere – little bags containing some sweets pre-ordered for some events like a wedding, graduation etc. It’s like a little workshop where everyone does what they are best capable of. But you always have to pay attention to how they are counting the materials, which actually helped me to learn numbers in Italian. Hey, we were learning things together! As I enjoy arts and crafts in general, it was really fun making some useful things and also learning about this tradition.
4. Insight to the teaching approaches
As a person with experience in teaching, I found it fascinating seeing what methods they would use for educating people with disabilities.
First, money. Of course. As their capabilities vary, some need more help and some less. But just in case, there is a page of different combinations of coins at the cash register. Like, how to give someone back 70 cents – it’s the picture of a 50 cent coin and a 20 cent one. Another money task is when they have to count the money in the cash register at the end of the day. Then they bring out pages where coins and banknotes are printed on and put the real cash accordingly covering the pictures. Last month I was finally able to help them count till 100 in Italian.
Then, they have notes and posters everywhere. They have this huge poster of the clock and all the explanations. Then, there is a poster of some names of emotions and signs how to tell if someone is feeling that way. For example – happy is when a person is smiling etc.
5. Little things that makes you smile
- Sometimes, the break can turn into a small picnic outside the store, eating fresh peaches and enjoying the view and conversating with the others
- Whenever he remembers, Alberto puts Green Day using Siri, yet, Siri doesn’t always understand him so then you get to witness the struggle but do not try to help him put the songs on because… well… it’s always Green Day.
- Sometimes they forget that you might not speak Italian and start telling you personal stories about their lives (which made me feel very included actually), and when they are reminded about that, they really try to use the few English words they know which is some numbers and Hello (which is the cutest thing ever).
- You will meet the guys in different events because they are very active in promoting the association. They will always remember you and tell pepole about how you know each other.
You can find them on Facebook and Instagram.
Ciao, will miss them lots