Opening the door to employment

Opening the door to employment 31/10/2008
Amparo Navaja Maldonado

Amparo Navaja Maldonado gets training in ESF project and finds permanent work in Seville, Spain as part of EU effort to fight discrimination against the Roma community.

“I love my job because it gives me stability and the opportunity to learn new things,” says Amparo Navaja Maldonado, from Seville, Spain.

Speaking in the lobby of the upmarket hotel where she works, the 30-year old appears positive and contented. However, not so long ago she was in a different situation. Having left school at the end of compulsory education with few qualifications, the only employment she could find was irregular work, cleaning offices. “My life was stuck in a rut,” she says.

“I didn’t really have anything stable. Just cleaning jobs from time to time,” she continues, “I would get a two month contract here, or a few days work there, but there were long periods when I was unemployed.”

An uncertain future

Amparo grew up in a large family of Roma origin. Her parents made their living travelling from market to market selling fruit – a life that she saw was difficult, with little certainty.

When she and her husband, Juan Manuel Gallego, had their first baby, Marco, just over five years ago, she began to realise that she wanted a different future for her own family. “I wanted to do something different and change my situation,” she says, “I wanted a career and to be able to support myself and my children.”

With no fixed income coming in, the young family stayed at her parents’ house along with her four brothers – meaning conditions were cramped. “It was tough. I was living with my parents with a young baby and my husband, ” she says, “There was no privacy and it really put a strain on our relationship.”

Embarking on a training and education programme

Help came when she found out about the ACCEDER training course through a local employment centre. The course, co-funded by the European Union through the European Social Fund, aims to fight discrimination against the Roma communities and help individuals gain the training and education that they need to get permanent employment. It has been operating since 2000 and in its first six years helped more than 30,000 individuals get employment contracts throughout Spain.

The course enables individuals to gain the skills and experience they need to access job opportunities, allowing flexible training programmes. Courses combine the practical and theoretical and are tailored to the needs of individuals.

Through the course, Amparo trained as a chambermaid and undertook work experience in a hotel in Seville. “The course gave me an extra qualification to help get jobs,” she says.

Building confidence and self-esteem

But more importantly, she continues, the course increased her self-esteem and confidence. “I saw that I had more options. It opened many doors.”

Soon after finishing the course in 2004, she gained a job as a hotel chambermaid with a fixed contract. Four years later, she switched to a position at one of the biggest hotels in the city where she has a permanent contract and has been promoted to a supervisory role.

She is now in charge of a small team of chambermaids, assigning work rotas and ensuring that standards are kept up. Amparo says that one of the things she appreciates most about her job is the colleagues she works with. “It’s great to work as part of a professional team.

At a personal level, the stability of her position at the hotel enabled the young couple to buy their own home, around two years ago. With the latest addition to the family, baby Adrian, arriving in early 2008, the upturn in their fortunes has come just in time. “My life has changed dramatically, because now I am on the payroll. I was able to get a mortgage,” says Amparo. “We now have our own home and car and I feel financially secure.”