Friday, May 05, 2006

On a brighter note, I was offered some work a month and a half back by one of the local civic centres.  They asked me if I would be interested in “doing a bit of consultancy work” for them.  Well, that could mean anything, right?  So I arranged a meeting with them and soon discovered that what they wanted me to do was to teach people with learning disabilities how to make, wrap and sell soap, with the intention that it would become a profitable business and these people would eventually be able to draw a wage and stop claiming disability/incapacity benefit.  My initial contract was for 6 weeks but they’ve extended it by another 6.

I wasn’t sure exactly what these people would be like, but after working with them for a month and a half I am having some serious misgivings about this project.  There are so many aspects of a soapmaking business that they simply are not capable of handling.  Somebody is going to have to take care of all the legal aspects of it, such as compliance with cosmetic regulations (you soapers in the USA don’t know how lucky you are), trading standards requirements such as weights & measures and labelling, public liability, record keeping and batch numbers, bookkeeping … the list goes on.

Apart from all of that, I worked out that they would have to produce (and sell) between 700 and 800 bars of soap per week to make it a viable project.  Last Tuesday they had a particularly productive day – they made a grand total of 18 bars of soap.  These people have very short attention spans, they need a stick of dynamite up their arse to get them to put on any burst of speed, and they get bored very easily.  I teach them one day a week and even that is challenging for them.  If you try to get them to hurry up to increase productivity they get upset and start to cry. They really do need to be treated with kid gloves sometimes. Their project is doomed to failure before it’s even started and I’m beginning to feel very disheartened.  However, if we were to carry on one day a week and use it as a craft day, then I’m all for it.  It’s educational and they enjoy themselves immensely. One girl asked me who would teach them after I had finished.  I told her, “No one, because by then you will be experts and will be able to do it on your own”, to which she replied, with big sad eyes, “Then I don’t want to do it anymore.  I only ever want to make soap with you.”



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