Is there life and food beyond catering companies?

Although currently most services are ordered from companies at rather high prices, more and more NGO’s also offer high quality services. The event management group of the Hungarian Williams Syndrome Association – young peole living with Williams syndrome who are very easy-going and have excellent communication skills, and their helpers – are happy to do the catering background for any event. Based on the experiences of the past year, this team of young people living with a mental disability is competent in managing children’s programmes, registration tasks and offering tasty appetisers. Because as the Scandinavian say: no one is worth more than the other, only our strengths vary. Thankfully Hungary also has a few people who believe that people living with disabilities, who are usually marginalised, can also be a useful part of the community they were born in. 

At the closing conference held in the past few days, Jakab – a teenage boy living with Williams syndrome that I met at a festival months ago – comes to greet me with a smile, shakes my hand and calls me by my name. I ususally meet a lot of people, but it’s quite rare to meet someone with such a good name memory. I tend to forget the names of people I meet casually – but he does not. Everyone has different strengths. People living with Williams syndrome, a rare condition, approach guests with a much more honest smile and easy-going attitude than most professional hostesses, for example. The idea of an event management group was conceived by the staff of the organisation and the parents of the youth affected because they are also aware of what they are good at.

Young people becoming independent is often a challenge for the parents of healthy youth as well: it can be difficult to let our adolescent children go away for several days, and we often tidy their rooms for them even if they would be able to do it themselves. „I will finish the dishes a lot more quickly” – many mums think, indirectly instilling the idea in the children that they don’t have to bother with housework. And with a disabled child, parents tend to worry even more, and are even less likely to realise that their little baby has grown up. The aim of the Fészekhagyó (Nest leaver) project is to support disabled youth in creating an independent living, through teaching them various „small things” – folding one’s clothes or setting the table – that they will truly need in their more or less independent lives. They have a camp that has been held each year for several years, and this year the young people participated without their parents; many of them paid for goods in the shop, took part in the work around the cottage or cleaned their rooms for the first time ever. Doing all these tasks „by themselves” was as liberating for them as it is for any of us when we learn to hold a class, fix a washing machine, or design a house by ourselves. 

The measure of independence varies from person to person, but there isn’t anyone that couldn’t be helped, with the right development methods, to become more active and self-reliant. In Hungary, just as with the development of other vulnerable groups, the independence of disabled people gets little attention. The majority of disabled people, once the family becomes unable to take care of them on a daily basis, end up in institutions where they are only expected to vegetate passively; even if time passed actively would be a lot more enjoyable and beneficial for their development than doing nothing, just as for any of us. But unfortunately there are hardly any care homes of this type in Hungary, which would offer activities, personal care and possibly an integrated community. The creators of the initiative have got in contact with several other initiatives in and outside of Hungary. They had the chance to learn about chocolate manufacturing from Kockacsoki, the ins and outs of catering from Mozsár Café and The Museum of Catering, and they also received professional advice about the right tools that can support an independent living from Frambu, our Norwegian partner specialising in the development of people with rare conditions and their families. 

In the past months, the young people have organised a children’s day and a Santa Claus event for small children, have participated in managing Christmas celebrations for the elderly and the blind, and they have even organised a steeplechase game for the lower elementary students of a school in the countryside. In the meantime, they have grown into a real team. The members of the team hope that they can stay together, that one day they can truly leave the family nest, and that they can find a place where they can live actively and independently, in an integrated environment. I also trust that there are a few companies, institutions or NGO’s in Hungary that will be happy to invite this team to their events, so that they can receive their guests with games, tasty food and honest smiles.