Sir Terry Pratchett wrote “Those that can do, will have to do for those who can’t and someone has to speak for those who have no voices.” While this is undoubtedly true, it is much more critical wherever possible, to empower the transformation of those who can’t into those who can and support the voiceless into finding a voice of their own.
Over the past few years, the International Trademark Association (INTA) has forged a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility and it formed a large part of the discussion at INTA Leadership this year. Hosted in New Orleans, The 2018 Leadership Meeting, sought to give back to the city through volunteer initiatives throughout the week. These initiatives addressed such issues as homelessness, programs that educate young adults around the risks of purchasing counterfeit products and workforce training for youth.
On Thursday, 8th November, INTA members had the opportunity to play a role in empowering young people to develop their workforce skills, access internships with employer partners, be supported obtaining and retaining employment along with access to fresh and healthy food.
Liberty’s Kitchen was founded over ten years ago by Janet Gorence Davas across from the New Orleans Courthouse. Since then, over 750 young people have availed of their services. They boast an impressive 90% employment rate, over 20,000 pounds of fresh produce has been purchased from local corner grocer stores and already 3 of their graduates have started their own businesses.
INTA teamed up with Liberty’s Kitchen in hosting a special Guest Chef Night with Chef Andrew Lu of Cavan. The 300 N. Broad Street Cafe, was transformed into an inspiring and delicious fine-dining experience for the supporting INTA members! Ably assisted by his team of trainees and full time staff at Liberty’s Kitchen, the menu drew on both Chef Lu’s Asian heritage and local Creole traditions producing a superb fusion of cultures and flavours.
The ultimate vision and mission of Liberty’s Kitchen is to create a world in which all young people are empowered to succeed in their lives. They take a unique and fresh approach to creating this world and I was not alone in being profoundly effected by the experience. For many of us attending, it was brought vividly home how much we take the ‘normal’ experience of a stable, supportive environment for granted when we think about how young people start out in the world.
A factor that plays a significant role in their success rate is certainly their focus on removing as many barriers to success as possible. Some of those barriers can be as simple as not having reliable transportation to and from work or no laundry facilities to care for your uniform. INTA has donated a number of bicycles to help resolve transportation issues for some of the trainees and graduates. Liberty’s Kitchen themselves provide clean uniforms for their trainees every day.
It’s important to note that how we define failure as an individual and as a society varies wildly from city to city and across income brackets and life experiences. In some worlds, failure is merely a learning experience designed to lead you to eventual success. In others, failure and the fear of failure can be crippling concepts. The work done in Liberty’s Kitchen in terms of redefining failure as an empowering learning tool, providing supported self-reflection and breaking down barriers is simply nothing short of astounding.
For myself, I was honoured and very grateful to play even a small role in supporting the next graduate class at Liberty’s Kitchen as they move through training and on to a different future. You too can get involved to create a different future for the 1 in 5 young people in New Orleans who are not in school nor employment. Donate or get more actively involved at http://www.libertyskitchen.org/donate/