NRCC Member in Spotlight - Interview- Damien Thiery - Ateliere Fara Frontiere

Wed | 06.11.2019


I am Damien Thiery, and before joining Ateliere Fără Frontiere (Workshops without Borders) as Managing Director, I worked in the private sector in France, the UK and Romania, building my expertise in Corporate Finance, Production Optimization and Human Resources. I joined Ateliere Fără Frontiere to grow the organization’s three circular economy workshops in which the highly disadvantaged receive the personalized support they need to regain control over their lives and escape poverty through work, by joining the conventional labor market.



1. Please introduce yourself to the NRCC community.

My name is Damien Thiery, and I am the Managing Director of Ateliere Fără Frontiere (AFF) – in English is called Workshops without Borders, one of the NGOs pioneering work integration in Romania. I am also a husband and father of three. My personal mission is to help others and do my best to protect our environment, which is also why I've joined AFF as a Managing Director starting October 2019, after working in the private sector in France, the United Kingdom and Romania.


2. When was the NGO founded and by who?

Ateliere Fără Frontiere was initiated in 2007 in Romania by Ateliers Sans Frontières France, and later on, in 2008, it became a legal entity founded by representative of well-known NGOs, who all saw the immense potential in work integration for helping people escape poverty and turn their lives around, all while helping society move forward towards a more sustainable future.


3. What was the main idea behind it?

Romania has high rates for exclusion and poverty and also a workforce shortage. Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs), like Ateliere Fără Frontiere, offer an integrated solution. They do the necessary work to bring disadvantaged groups into the conventional labor market by providing personalized programs for the social, professional and civil integration of people in great difficulty, who are excluded and marginalized.


4. What type of services do you offer to the NGO's beneficiaries?

Employees in the work integration program follow an individual, progressive roadmap based on their motivation to rebuild their lives despite the challenges they have to confront. The beneficiaries are employed in three workshops:

- reconect, for the collection, recycling and reuse of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE),

- remesh, for transforming outdoor advertising waste (banners, meshes, flags) into bags and other ethical fashion accessories,

- the bio&co farm where we grow 80 varieties of bio-certified vegetables, fruit and aromatic plants.


5. Please tell us something about each of them.

All three workshops - reconect, remesh and the bio&co farm - were designed based on the social entrepreneurship set of principles. They aim to create a sustainable commercial activity to address societal and environmental issues - like long term unemployment, poverty, pollution and waste, a lack of access to health services, power, transportation or housing.


Through reconect, we help companies comply with their legal obligations regarding responsible WEEE management. We collect used IT equipment (and WEEE in general) to be prepared to be reused in our computer donations' platform through which we help close the digital divide between schools in prosperous, urban and poor, rural areas. For every computer we refurbish and donate to a school, seven people in our work integration program are involved. That's seven people less relying on the state's financial assistance.


In the remesh workshop, those excluded and marginalized are upcycling advertising banners into eco-friendly, ethical bags, wallets, pouches and many other colorful and sturdy items companies can order for their events, consumer promo campaigns or conferences. Just like in reconect's case, all the activities in the workshop were designed with a clear goal in mind: help those in the work integration program develop new skills, rebuild their self-confidence and their trust in others.


The people working at bio&co come from within a community dealing with social exclusion. The farm allows them to get work experience, access all work-related rights (like free health care), all while earning a wage.


In each of the three workshops, people are at the heart of everything we do and they receive the personalized counselling and training they need to make a positive exit towards the conventional labor market at the end of the assisted employment program.


6. How bad are the problems affecting the people in need?

On average, Ateliere Fără Frontiere beneficiaries deal with 7-8 difficulties each. What that means is that from the list of issues affecting one's ability to get and keep a job, each of the beneficiaries deals with multiple problems. The most common difficulties they are facing are financial, family-related, career-path related, housing-related, health-issues, long term unemployment, addiction, legal issues and prison sentences, intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, lack of documents, illiteracy. Among our beneficiaries, we had people dealing with homelessness, victims of human trafficking, victims of domestic abuse and other serious, life-threatening issues.


7. With what purpose did Ateliere Fără Frontiere become a Member of the NRCC?

Our mission is strongly tied to the labor market, and we've always looked to build strong partnerships with companies operating in Romania. By supporting our work integration program, companies can attract some of the workers were are preparing for joining the conventional labour market. More so, we can train these workers specifically for entering a particular company's workforce. We believe that the NRCC represents a community of forward-thinking business leaders that can see work integration's potential to solve Romania's workforce shortage. By partnering up with Ateliere Fără Frontiere to develop programs that would serve both the interests of the company and those of our beneficiaries, we'd push society forward while changing lives.


8. How can your fellow NRCC members better help you?

NRCC members can support Ateliere Fără Frontiere by financing our work integration program, or by helping us build the sustainability of the three work integration workshops by:

- asking the reconect team to collect the company's used IT equipment and WEEE through, which is free, and thus support the activity of the workshop;

- ordering remesh products through, for which we can use a company's own advertising banners as the material for conference bags, onboarding goodie bags, wallets, pouches;

- finding at least ten employees in the company willing to order a bio&co weekly basket through, so that we could deliver them to your headquarters.


If companies ask reconect to collect their used laptops, LCD screens or desktop computers that can be refurbished and donated, before the end of October 2019, they can even receive a prize at this year's 'For a Clean Environment` – Awards Gala, organized by ECOTIC.

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