Angels of Dignity (I)

Fancy a coffee at Dignita? // Photo: Not for Sale

Walking through the Red Light District in Amsterdam a few weeks ago we spotted a small and very interesting store. It was called Dignita and, after a friendly talk with the female workers there, it was clear to us that we had to write about this particular place and the great structure behind it…

We have recently interviewed Meijet Broers, the program coordinator at the “Not for Sale” foundation in the Netherlands. The goal of this organism it to bring a future of hope to those people who survived the abuse and exploitation of human trafficking.

How does the “Not For Sale” foundation work?

The foundation is composed by social enterprises like the Dignita café  or the Dignita store – both of them located in Amsterdam. All the profits made by these social enterprises go to the foundation. These profits subsequently pay for the training programs offered to survivors of human trafficking.

Interior of the Dignita café in Amsterdam. // Photo: Not for Sale

What inspired you to come up with this highly social and original approach?

After working for years with victims of human trafficking, Toos Heemskerk initiated a culinary training project to improve the skills of the survivors – thus, creating new job opportunities for them and protecting the victims from future exploitation. Together with Jorrit Looijenga, the business development coordinator, she set up social enterprises like the Dignita café we just mentioned: a learn and work environment for the trainees where acknowledged courses are given. Also, the Dignita store was opened at the Red Light District. It serves as the perfect place both to sell some of the products made by the trainees and to give presentations on human trafficking.

Tell us about the daily activities at the Dignita café/ restaurant.

Hospitality courses are given regularly at the Dignita restaurant. These courses receive recognition and examination by the ROC Amsterdam (the regional community college). For instance, the trainees learn about the official hygiene rules, learn production techniques in the kitchen and adquire product knowledge.

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Interior of the Dignita cafe in Amsterdam. // Photo: Not for Sale

What kind of feedback have you gotten so far from Dignita’s customers?

The feedback to the food and products are very positive. Our motto ‘eat well, do good’ is a subtle reference to the social activities we carry out. We want to offer a safe, social and normal work environment that relies on good service and products – instead of ‘victimizing’ the people involved.

What are some of the midterm goals for the NFS foundation?

We would like to keep developing and improving the training programs. We would also like to expand and open more work environments for survivors of human trafficking.

“Eat well, do good”// Photo: Not for Sale

TEXT: Eva Blanco