The Not For Sale Foundation is an international organization that offers a future perspective to victims of human trafficking or exploitation through various social enterprises. Jorrit Looijenga is the founder of one of these companies: Dignita. Through three restaurants and its own academy, Dignita offers training, workplaces and tailor-made guidance for vulnerable women in Amsterdam. After the success in Amsterdam, the company is expanding this year to The Hague, where it will also focus on men.
(Un) certainty in times of crisis
For a company that is active in the hospitality industry and at the same time works with a vulnerable target group, the corona crisis is a major challenge. Fortunately, Dignita stands firmly on the ground.
Jorrit: “The money we work with is intended to help others, so we handle it with care. The foundation owns 100% of the restaurants and all proceeds go to the social program. Fortunately, the combination of prudent fiscal policy and government support means that we are now in good shape. ” This means that Jorrit can fully focus on the participants, because without a place to work and learn there is a risk that they end up in social isolation. Something that entails enormous risks for this group.
Adapt and persist
Just like any other company, Dignita has also had to adapt to the new way of working. This started during the first lockdown with a computer course for all participants.
“Most of them were not comfortable in the digital world, so we focused on that first,” says Jorrit. “When things improved, we organized cooking lessons remotely, for example, and where the measures allowed we seized the opportunity to see each other face to face. In this way, we have always found ways to maintain contact. ”
Make men visible
After years of working for vulnerable women, Dignita now also wants to help men. A group that is not always seen, but is also regularly exploited in industries such as construction, agriculture or meat processing. “The recognition of this problem is twofold. We are less aware of it, but the men themselves will not easily admit that they are victims. ” In order to also get this group in the picture, Dignita in The Hague works together with local authorities. “A good social infrastructure is essential. We offer a place to learn and work, that’s where our strength lies. But we do not have the knowledge and resources to find participants ourselves or to help them find a home. Only by working together can we best help the participants. ”
Growing to get bigger
With a lot of interest from cities such as Groningen, Alkmaar and Utrecht, there is still enough for Dignita to grow towards. Although the company only takes a new step when both feet are firmly on the ground. “We have a good network around us that keeps us on our toes. For example, we ensure that the culture within our company is good, that responsibilities are fairly distributed and that we grow with our ambitions.”
One of these ambitions is to expand the training options because not everyone wants to work in the hospitality industry. For example, an administration course, computer training and beauty training are planned, all based on the wishes of the target group.
“Ultimately, you do it all for your trainees. To see them change their lives in small steps, knowing where they come from. The positive impact we have on their lives, that’s the best thing there is! ”
Dignita is supported by the DOEN Foundation, the charity Lotteries fund. Partly thanks to this support, this social enterprise has helped 79 people from the target group find a job since its inception in 2012. In addition, more than 200 people were trained and guided through various programs.