Frenchman goes in search of meaning and diversity to help disadvantaged people

There are 650,000 disabled people in Romania and less than 10 percent of them ever manage to find a job. A young French is fighting preconceptions and a sometimes faulted system to help these people in need and raise awareness among companies and individuals about diversity in the workplace. Stephane Meuret has shared some of his opinions and told a bit of his story to Romania Insider.com, rolling out ideas which will make you think twice about your life’s true meaning, especially in these times of economic turmoil and change.

By Corina Saceanu, corina@romania-insider.com

When he was in his early 20s, Stephane Meuret has left France and went to work abroad after realizing he hated the idea of having his entire future mapped out with certainty. He has worked in the human resources area for a number of firms abroad, becoming an European, not a French anymore. Stephane eventually came to Romania with Bouygues Construction in 2006. Three years after, when the project he was supposed to start in Ukraine was delayed, Stephane decided to use his abilities elsewhere, where he could actually help real people, those people in need, those who live hard lives outside companies and the corporate world.

He has joined HR Specialists, a company which, among others, offers advice, training and finds jobs for people with disabilities. He also runs the non-profit association Acces pentru Toti (Acces for all), which promotes diversity within the professional world through advice, training and job offers for disadvantaged groups. Another non-profit project that he runs is ‘Mai aproape de oameni, prin forme ale economiei sociale” (Closer to people through social economy), which is co-financed by the European Social Fund to support the sustainable inclusion of disabled persons and change the way the economic world integrate diversity.

“The projects we have now are more useful to people outside the firm, to the people on the street. It gives a greater meaning to our work and makes us wake up fresh in the morning,” says Stephane.

A discussion with him maps out the main problems of the world today and he’s so passionate about what the things he says that it’s impossible not to send the sentiment through. While giving up on watching TV for years already, Stephane reads the newspapers and stays in touch with the realities in the world, although he’s not a fan of the media in general. It is one of the developments of the world he doesn’t agree with. “People believe that everything they read is true,” says Stephane.

The lack of freedom of thought is one of the problems in today’s society, he believes, and this is visible in the corporate world, where being able to think for yourself and telling things as they are are seen as weak points. “Freedom on the job is very important. But every day we have a fake sentiment of freedom given by the media, among others,” Stephane believes.

He likes to tell things as they are and help people think differently. “It is good to tell the truth, even if it’s not politically correct. I had people thanking me after interviews that I gave them my honest feed-back,” he says. “I like to help young people think differently.” This is why he also runs training courses for students at the Constructions University in Bucharest. “People think less but react more in life. But we need to stop and think.”

School teaches one to go up the ladder to an upper class and follow certain things, but people are different and they should connect to their core, be true to themselves and follow the things they care about. For Stephane, this has worked. His brother had a work accident and then asked him for advice on how to find a job. “I felt involved, he asked me for advice to find job and this touched me. I discovered this way and learned I was concerned because it was my family, while so many people out there were alone in this,” says Stephane.

He realized he was sensitive to all the suffering which stemmed from the inability to find a job and that most people didn’t realize this is a harsh reality out there.

“In Bucharest there are more than ten realities that don’t have anything in common with one another,” says Stephane Meuret.

Although he doesn’t believe in examples himself, as each individual is unique and has their own different ways, his way of becoming more authentic worked. “We should think about the people who matter to us and which make us more authentic in life,” says Stephane.

Money and consumerism are two concepts which rank low in Stephane’s list of priorities in life. “Money is not my priority in life. If you work with passion, money will come along. If you’re a reasonable consumer, you can have almost all you need for,” he says. We should connect to our own core and to the things we like and feel fit to and follow those, rather than what the world around us is doing. “This will lead to personal happiness,” says Stephane.

In fact, work should come from passion, he believes. “When you’re in love, you don’t count the hours with the people you love. Why count the hours at work then? “

“Many people say it is not good to invest sentiments in your work. But it is not true, we are sensible beings. In the future, it will be more important for somebody to invest sentiment in their work. I expect a future where people are at the core of things. The rest are human inventions,” Stephane Meuret concludes.

* HR Specialist offers recruitment and head hunting services, leasing of personnel, training, translation services and language courses. The company also sells Handimade decoration and stationery products created by disabled people. To read more about the project go here.