Active in HELL, the partnership between HELL Pizza and IDEA Services to train young people with intellectual disabilities in commercial kitchens, has just surpassed 150 graduates.
Running since 2013 on the back of a chance phone call for some free pizza, Active in HELL has provided more than 150 youths with intellectual disabilities the chance to learn key vocational skills and vital independence through being paid for their work.
“We originally called HELL to ask for a pizza donation for the birthday party of our youth services centre ‘Active’,” says IHC National Coordinator Krissy Gain.
“Very rarely have we ever had organisations or employers ask us what more they can do. From that conversation, the idea of a training programme was developed.”
A pilot programme ran for eight weeks in four stores in Wellington and it was considered such a success by all involved that Active in HELL was rolled out across the country.
For Ben Cumming, CEO of HELL Pizza, it was a natural partnership.
“HELL has always looked at ways to support where others might not, and this was a perfect opportunity for us to offer our kitchens and expertise to expand the choices available for young people with an intellectual disability,” said Cumming.
“We also recognised that the paid aspect was a big part in providing trainees an experience of financial independence.”
Cumming added that the continued success of the programme is thanks in large part to the commitment of HELL franchisees and their staff around the country.
“It’s due to the buy-in from our franchisees, as well as the regional coordinators at IDEA Services, that we’ve been able to grow the programme in the way we have,” said Cumming.
“It’s really a win-win, as not only have we been able to give 150 young people a break where they may not have had one; HELL staff have also learned a lot from working with the trainees.”
Marty Richards, the franchisee of HELL Grey Lynn, has had nine graduates through his store.
“I was excited by the opportunity to have a positive effect on the lives of these young people,” said Richards.
“As time goes by, I’ve seen the trainees open up and become more comfortable in this new environment. It can be amazing seeing how they change as their personalities start to shine through. It has given me and my staff so much fulfilment to be involved with these kids.”
Hamish Dua of HELL South Dunedin has had seven trainees through his store and sees Active in HELL as an opportunity to give back in a meaningful way.
“We understand it can be hard to find a job, so having the trainees through helps support their independence and build their confidence,” said Dua.
“The trainees’ enthusiasm for learning and their work ethic has also set a good example for other staff.”
Both Gain and Cumming feel an enormous sense of pride in Active in HELL and the opportunities it has provided for young people.
“I can’t commend HELL Pizza enough,” said Gain. “To think that more than 150 young people have been paid to work in commercial kitchens across New Zealand – that’s a pretty significant number! I know that it’s been life changing for a lot of people.”
For the graduates of the programme, it’s an experience they won’t forget and one that has helped them develop skills for future work.
What the graduates say…
“I liked that I got to learn new people skills and to learn to ask for help when I needed it. It was a good experience and the people here are really nice. I also feel like I gained quite a bit of independence earning my own money.” – Evie Randall, HELL Lower Hutt graduate.
“It taught me about responsibility and the need to turn up to work on time. I really enjoyed the whole experience, particularly learning how to prepare the food portions and put the toppings on the pizzas.” – Christine Lau, HELL Grey Lynn graduate.
“My co-workers were great to work with, and I learnt how to communicate better with people and how to handle new responsibilities.” – Trevor Oakley, HELL Kapiti graduate.
For the HELL team, it’s stories like these and the enrichment in the experience of HELL staff that brings most satisfaction.
“Active in HELL is one of our proudest initiatives,” said Cumming. “Winning the Diversability Award in 2016 was a real highlight, which we’ll always remember, but mainly it’s the individual stories we hear each time another trainee completes the programme that make us tick.”
“As long as there are young people wanting to take part, we hope to keep hitting these milestones”