Best Buddies Colombia launched the Jobs program in 2005 by establishing a social responsibility project with local corporations who agreed to integrate people with disabilities into their workforce. Before this program, opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be part of the workforce were not available. The Best Buddies Colombia Jobs Program started with 10 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and has integrated over 320 individuals to date. It has been a tremendous success for everyone involved as well as Colombia. Employers have found that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are incredibly dedicated and motivated employees; in turn, the employees have found that through their employment, their financial contribution is improving the quality of life of their families.
This is the story of one of the original Best Buddies Jobs participants: Jhon Isidro Castañeda, Bogota, Colombia
Like most young people with an intellectual disability, before I was involved in Best Buddies, I lived my life, but did not fully enjoy life. My life was a routine, and I had nothing to look forward to. Every day, I would wake up and go to work with my dad, collecting recyclables throughout Bogota. I had very few friends, and I was constantly made fun of by other kids in my neighborhood.
That was my life before I joined Best Buddies…now my life has completely changed.
As you know, the mission of Best Buddies it to help people with intellectual disabilities by offoffering opportunities to meet friends and to find a job.
Best Buddies does more than just that. Best Buddies embraces us and our abilities and fills us with hope. Their support gave me courage to remember and go after dreams that I had dismissed a long time ago. Their belief in me helped me conquer many obstacles and build a complete life. Today, I have friends, I am continuing my education, I have a job, and I have savings! I stand on my own and I can achieve anything!
Through the Best Buddies Jobs program, I was hired at Alkosto in 2005. And, I am very proud to say that because of the great job me and the other 9 young people with an intellectual disability have done, Alkosto now employs 181 people with intellectual disabilities! I can’t explain how good it makes me feel to know that I have helped other people, like me, get a job.
A few years ago, I never imagined I would be where I am today and achieve the things I have. Now, instead of being made fun of, I’m surrounded by incredible people that see me as a person, a coworker, as an equal. Now I’m a person that enjoys life to the fullest with my coworkers, my friends and with my dad. I am useful and contribute to society. But, most importantly, with my savings, I will be able to make my father’s dream come true: Having his own house!
Thank you to my Best Buddy, Carlos Vives, Best Buddies Colombia, and to everyone who has always supported me. Thanks for believing in me, thanks for making me see that there’s nothing that I can’t do!