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These friends with Down syndrome are thriving in the Argentina pizza market

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 11:30
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Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 21, 2017 / 11:32 am (CNA).- Mateo studied baking and Leandro pastry making. Franco and Mauricio wanted to be waiters. These overlapping interests led the four friends with Down syndrome to start a successful pizza service in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

With nearly 40,000 followers on Facebook, this group of friends held nearly 30 events in just their first two months. Wherever they are called, they always arrive with their own oven and outfits. The offer pizza and empanadas, and they even have a menu for those who are gluten intolerant.

Each one knows his role in the undertaking, which is coordinated by Leandro López, president of the Crecer Sumando (Growing Together) association, which is dedicated to serving young people with Down syndrome.

López told CNA that “the idea was to try to change a little bit the paradigm regarding persons with Down syndrome,” in order to help normalize their inclusion in society's workforce.

It all started in 2015, when López began working with efforts to help integrate Mauricio, Franco and Leandro into society.

“When that year was over, the guys were eager to work but there was this void.”

“In early 2016, when Mateo had already joined them, we began to work with their parents in the area of jobs, to see what kind of work they would like to do,” recalled the physical education teacher.

“One day I suggested cooking pizza, and I dove into the whole process, from buying all the materials to when we sat down at the table to eat,” López said.

The idea took off, and in June last year, the group began to work with the idea of having a pizza service whose name – “Los Perejiles” – was proposed by Leandro.

They had their first event on July 9. It became “a revolution on social media,” prompting them to “create an account, choose a logo and work on all their outfits.”

“They're my teachers and I'm learning with them what the needs are,” López said regarding managing the project.

“These young people can really be included in society, and they have a whole lot to teach us. I'm learning something new from them every day: the goodness of being human, the essence of the human being. There is no envy or selfishness among them, instead there is friendly collaboration.”

López said that “at present there are no real job opportunities for people with Downs” in Buenos Aires. There are several training schools, but the chances of graduates being able to move beyond them and find other jobs is low.

“It seems to me that we all have a right to two fundamental things, to life and be taken into account. These two premises can make a person live happily their whole life,” López said.

This article was originally published on CNA September 19, 2016.

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