A store in Drama, Macedonia, is hiring people with special needs to help them integrate into society and says, "We do not want people to come here because they feel sorry for us, we want them to come here because they like it."
In the centre of Drama, on Democritus Street, you will come across “Me…nou," which is set up like an old Greek grocery store. Here you will find locals picking up their bread, milk, oil, herbs, as well as sitting down to have an ouzo, mezedakia, and coffee, which is part of their sit down service.
When you enter, you are greeted by 45-year-old Paschalis who serves many regular customers and takes their orders. Behind him is Maria, who also serves the locals with a smile on her face. At the registers are Dimitra and Elizabeth. All of them make this store very pleasurable.
What makes this store even more special is that Paschalis is blind and Maria has Down syndrome.
"Me…nou" was created with love by the members of the Social Cooperative Enterprise "Solidarity Cooperation". Behind it is the President of the Drama Club, Dimitris Boskos, who is also blind. "I wanted to create a space for people with disabilities to coexist with all of society. So we can all talk to get to know each other better," he told VICE Greece.
"One of the main goals is to integrate people with disabilities into the employment market," he adds.
Although the store was created to achieve the goal of integrating people with disabilities into society, they have gone a step further. The tables are full every day, as the food is excellent. Groceries are also very popular as they are hand-selected products from local suppliers, promoting organic flavours from the area.
Bubbly 17-year-old Maria says she loves working here, adding, "I want to come here all the time and I enjoy it more than going to school.”
Maria’s mother is also very happy and says this has been an amazing opportunity for her daughter who has so many dreams for the future.
"I want to become a singer. I know how to sing and I will make it happen,” Maria tells her customers.
*Source and images: Vice Greece/ Photography Alexandros Avramidis