“Sometimes it is difficult for us to understand that there are people who have never had a chance”
TEXT: ÁNGEL MARTOS PHOTO: ALBERTO CARRASCO
We think we know everything about some people until another facet of them emerges. This is the case of Ana Botella, one of the best known women in Spain, who culminated her political career as the first female mayor of Madrid (2011-2015). At 69 years of age, she is still at the head of Fundación Integra, an organization that looks for new job opportunities for people who find it the most difficult to enter the workforce: ex-prisoners, rehabilitated drug addicts, homeless people, female victims of gender violence, prostituted and/or trafficked women, young people at risk of exclusion or on probation, and people with disabilities. “I must stress one thing”, she says, “those of us who have had opportunities in life, and I certainly have had many, sometimes it is difficult for us to understand that there are people who have never had even one opportunity, or who may have wasted it, but when they are given a helping hand, they take it and make the most of it.” Fundación Integra has extended thousands of helping hands over its 21 years, finding employment for more than 19,500 people, 70% of whom have been women. A task that the Fundación MAPFRE Social Outreach Awards have recognized with the award for the Best Organization for its Social Outreach.
Tell us about a particular case you remember.
His name is Pedro and he came from Villaverde, where there was practically an entire generation that got caught up in the world of drugs, of heroin, at a time when the area was undergoing a transformation, many factories were closing, and so he did what many people who were out of work did…
He got involved in drugs?
Yes… He was also the son of a drug addict… But he managed to get in touch with us, got a job and got out of that world, and he has been able to get his father out as well.
Over 21 years, Fundación Integra has provided employment for almost twenty thousand people.
We have evolved nicely, because we started with very few people, primarily because it was a new idea: I would turn up and ask a business person, let me give you two people a year, who are just out of prison, for example, and, well, we had to see what would happen.
They also follow up on the cases.
And many people have completely transformed their lives. When a person, for example, recovers from drug addiction, the only thing left to do is to get them back to work, because ultimately no social action is more important than employment.
She underlines the fact that 90% of the evaluations by the companies are positive in the first month.
There are many people who, when given an opportunity, take full advantage of it. If you don’t have a job, you’re never going to be able to achieve your life project, and although you may only have a low salary, you also have the possibility of improving yourself.
The first stop on your itinerary is the School of Empowerment, where you work on developing personal and job-related skills. T
here we prepare you to apply for a job, how to write a CV, explain what you should highlight about yourself…
In these cases, it is also very important to work on selfesteem.
In fact, if a person goes to ask for a job and they have no self-esteem, it is very difficult… And a woman who is the victim of domestic violence has no self-esteem, a person who has been on drugs has no selfesteem, a person who is in prison has no self-esteem, a homeless person has no self-esteem… so helping them to regain this is fundamental.
Providing employment opportunities is the strong point of your organization.
In Spain, the network of associations is very important. For example, a drug addict is first rehabilitated by Proyecto Hombre, to mention an organization we are all familiar with. Then, the next step is getting them back into work.
You function like a placement agency for excluded people.
Exactly. Increasingly, companies are also approaching us to offer placements through Fundación Integra, for example, for 20 people, and we make the selection.
In addition to their personal difficulties, there is probably discrimination based on age, sex, and so on.
We tend to work more with people over 50, because these are the ones who reach out to us. And we have a higher percentage of women, because they are victims of abuse.
But to give you another example, there are more homeless men, as women find it harder to sever all their ties. What about the digital divide?
This is training that we are going to start developing, because if you add a lack of digital education to the other exclusion they suffer, the situation is untenable.
Do you already know where the 30,000 euros from the Fundación MAPFRE prize will be spent?
All the funds we receive are used to support the foundation’s purpose. For us it is a significant amount of money, and it will undoubtedly allow us to grow.
How are Pedro and his father doing?
He is working and is still involved with us. We are all emotionally motivated, so when we go to a company to explain Fundación Integra’s project, we rely on a number of people, like Pedro, who come and explain their particular cases. Because in the end, talking about figures and numbers is always very cold.