Did you know that the unemployment rate for individuals on the autism spectrum was at 80% in Canada? (World health organization, 2017) Many young Canadians living with autism have trouble finding employment and this issue could be linked to many reasons, but this is an article about a solution. Hometown Bubbles is a social enterprise developed through ENACTUS, a student leadership organization based at Laurentian University.
Hometown Bubbles came to be in February of 2018. Moe Alaeddine is the project manager and co-runs ENACTUS with Alexie Beaulieu, and they have both been working on this project since the beginning. “We saw a big gap in the support services in terms of experience and opportunities for individuals living with autism. There wasn’t much out there helping these kids get out there and find their independence and cope with their social anxiety.”
This social enterprise is available to everyone on the autism spectrum as a tool for youth empowerment and entrepreneurship. Participants go through four sessions of business education and soap making workshops, once completed they receive a kit to make and sell soaps on their own. Hometown Bubbles works alongside the participants throughout the whole process, from the education to selling the product. The group works as a support for after completion of the program to ensure that participants are not left without help if needed.
Hometown Bubbles is still young, but they have already had nearly 40 participants complete their free program. They have partnerships with various organizations, such as with elementary schools, Autism Ontario and Community Children Resource Centre. These contacts share the information on when sessions are held, and the interested parties contact Hometown Bubbles directly to register. While they have only held the workshops in Sudbury, Hometown Bubbles is prepared to do a bit of traveling to offer their program. They are currently working with Autism Ontario to offer workshops in various municipalities in northern Ontario.
Once participants start selling their soaps, they can sell them at markets or to family and friends. Moe Alaeddine said that Hometown Bubbles will even set up a hot dog stand as a fundraiser for the program and invite participants to sell their soaps at the same time.
“We wanted something easy to make that let people be creative and have fun with it. With soap, you can have different colors, scents, and packaging.” Moe Alaedine says soap was chosen as the tool for empowerment and entrepreneurship not only because of its simplicity but because of the possibilities for personalizing the products these youths are selling.
Not only does Hometown Bubbles provide education and self-employment opportunities to youth on the autism spectrum, but they also provide volunteering opportunities and work experience for social work or education students. There aren’t too many chances to get experience working with youths living with disabilities and volunteering for Hometown Bubbles provides that experience.