June 20, 2016
There are over 700,000 people with disabilities in Romania. Various disabilities. The country’s stable population is slightly over 21 million, according to the latest census. That’s over 700,000 people to whom the government pays social welfare and allowances (or whatever they’re called) from non-disabled taxpayers’ money – and that’s about all they get.
This is a repost of PROIECT EXEMPLU, originally published in Romanian by Abdou-Razk Dumitrita-Ioana (Facebook), and submitted to the Europe in My Region 2016 blogging competition.
Do you know what disability means? According to the dictionary, it is that physical, psychological or mental state that hinders a person’s movement, activity, senses. It probably limits them depending on how serious the handicap is. Because, as you probably know, disability and handicap are the same thing. Just like infirmity, deficiency, disadvantage, and inability are all the same thing. That’s a lot of synonyms for someone who does nothing but receives their measly allowance and carry their inability around from one day to another – wouldn’t you say?
What would you do if you were in such a person’s shoes? OK, not you: what would I do if I were in such a person’s shoes? How would I plan my small amount of money and cater to my frail health?
Hard to say. Because that money is really very little. I think I’d look for a job, anything. There must be something I can do! If not talking, maybe writing. If not writing, maybe reading. If not reading, maybe tinkering. But who would hire someone who either can’t hear or can’t see or is not coherent or is missing an arm, a leg…? As you can see, it wouldn’t be easy for me, at least not without a little help and understanding from someone else. Because I couldn’t work as much as a healthy person, I wouldn’t be as fast and available full-time (I’d have days when I’m going to the doctor, when I’m not feeling well, etc.), that’s why I say I’d need understanding. Kindness. Patience. Too many needs, you say? I know. You’re asking me what my skills are? The correct question would be what my abilities are. I haven’t studied that much, my health is quite poor, so what kind of work could I do, I wonder? What job would be suitable for me? What talent is lying dormant in my helpless body? With proper guidance, some vocational training, a bit of patience, I’d learn, I’d discover myself, the normal person, and, despite my innate or acquired deficiency, I’d make myself useful, both to myself and to the community that, whether you like it or not, I’m part of. I’d be seen differently, I’d learn to fight, I’d overcome my limitations, at least in my mind.
I’ve heard about a project in Spain called Por Talento, co-funded by the European Union and carried out by the Once foundation together with FSC Inserta, which, since it started in 2009, has helped over 30,000 people with various disabilities to find a job that’s suitable for their health. This has been possible thanks to a purpose-built web portal which has attracted over 200,000 visitors over the years, of which 40,000 employers willing to work with physically or mentally challenged persons. Additionally, Por Talento has provided free training and workshops for over 8,000 people. Many others have been supported to continue or complete their studies. With a budget of 1 million euros, of which 700,000 provided by the ESF (European Social Fund), with one well designed project and some big-hearted people, 30,000 people were able to join society walking tall through the front door. They have joined the ranks of normal people. They’re no longer viewed as a useless or superfluous burden on the government’s shoulders. And, most importantly, the synonyms in the dictionary no longer apply to them.
Isn’t it true that I could have used such a helping hand too? I could have, I tell you that. You know what? Maybe I’m lucky enough and one of the thousands of Romanian foundations will take inspiration from that project. Because there’s always money available to support it. There’s money being paid from the European Commission’s budget for such projects every day, and there will surely be some employers with as big a heart as the Spanish ones. We just need a Once of our own to manage that money in good faith, an FSC Inserta to reach people with disabilities, to inform them and to guide their “steps” towards a suitable job.
That’s impossible in our country, you say? I say nothing is impossible. We just need to try to have more faith in people and their abilities. To give up scepticism. How? Well, don’t European Funds pay for projects such as “Be Confident”? Maybe they do and you don’t know about them! They’ve funded hundreds of projects so far, so it wouldn’t be impossible. Maybe you’d rather not take a project like Por Talento as an example and you prefer seeing us begging in the subway, on street corners or at junctions, because the Romanian government can’t pay us more money and no one dares hire us because no one can guarantee we’re capable of doing any specific work. Or perhaps you’d rather not see us at all, you’d rather we lived our miserable life out of your sight? No, I’m sure you’d want such a project in our country too!