What most people who have a mental or developmental disorder want is something that’s hard to dole out — hope. We just want to know that it’s going to be okay, someday, and that we have a chance of finding “normal.”

That’s why it touched my heart to read about a bunch of winemakers in Japan (not typically known for its wine). But these winemakers were different — the staff is made up of more than 100 developmentally disabled and autistic individuals. Not only do they work at the winery, they live there too, and there’s a school there as well.

This comprehensive, 360 degree approach is hope-giving. It provides people who society otherwise does not give a chance a place to feel special and like they belong. And belong they do:

Hiromitsu Watanabe, 28, is one of those students. When he first arrived at Coco Farms & Winery several years ago, his counselors said he could not communicate with anyone. Today, he is thriving in his new environment and talking non-stop. He told CNN his favorite job was putting on the labels and that he makes red wine.

Bruce Gutlove is the man behind the Japanese winemaker. He came to consult for a few months and ended up staying for 20 years, helping build this program that helps hundreds every year. And making good wine in the process.

We have some of these work programs in the U.S. for people with developmental disabilities or who are autistic. They are a patchwork that vary greatly from city to city, county to county, and state to state. I suppose that’s fine, but I do wish there was more of a focus on the benefits these kinds of programs provide so many people. And of course, funding for them, as none of this comes cheap.

In fact, I wish there were more of these kinds of programs for those with severe mental illness as well, those who spend countless boring hours in day programs with little to do except read or watch TV. Just because a person grapples with depression or schizophrenia doesn’t mean they don’t want to feel like they belong. And not just that they belong, but that there is hope for them.

Read the full article: Autistic winemakers crafting fine vintages in Japan.