Valueable Network keeps expanding: we are now present in Croatia, thanks to the new partnership with Hrvatska zajednica za Down sindrom (HZDS)! We had the pleasure of interviewing Dinka Vukovic, the President of HZDS, the Croatian Down Syndrome Association, and also the current president of European Down Syndrome Association (EDSA). Dinka shared her personal journey and her experience in advocating for persons with Down syndrome in Croatia and Europe. Our conversation has shed light on the benefits and challenges of the collaboration between HZDS and Valueable Network.

A Journey of Empowerment:

Dinka’s engagement with the disability field began when her son Philip was born with Down syndrome in 2000. Faced with limited information and support in Croatia, she took it upon herself to learn about intellectual disabilities and advocate for her son’s rights. Through extensive research and collaboration with parents and experts, Dinka established HZDS in 2005, an umbrella organisation that brought together 4 associations from various counties in Croatia. By travelling abroad and getting inspiration from UK education centres and American pedagogical materials Dinka has been able to propose innovative solutions to the challenges faced in the quest to break down barriers for persons with Down syndrome in her home country. She actively engages with government officials, gives lectures in schools, and raises awareness amongst parents about the capabilities and potential of persons with disabilities. Her dedication led to significant achievements, including pushing for law changes and creating opportunities for children with Down syndrome to attend regular schools. HZDS has now grown to encompass 8 associations in 9 counties and has become a member of EDSA and Down Syndrome International. Dinka’s vision is to prepare young people with Down syndrome for independence. Clearly, having a meaningful job is a key step to achieve this objective. 

The Impact of Valueable Network:

Dinka highlighted the transformative impact of the collaboration between HZDS and Valueable Network. Her association has greatly benefited from the expertise and support provided by Valueable Network coordinators Paola Vulterini and Giorgia Scivola. Dinka has emphasised that “Valueable Network gives HZDS the strength to showcase successful labour inclusion initiatives from other countries”. In turn, this can inspire Croatian businesses to follow suit and bolster HZDS’s requests when advocating government ministers to implement new inclusive policies. In February 2023 HZDS hosted the Valueable Network Coordination meeting in Zagreb, where representatives of partner organisations from 7 different EU countries met to discuss the future of the project. The 2-days meeting was a great success and we are excited to announce the upcoming launch of a new course on Health and Safety at Work

Overcoming Challenges:

Despite the progress made, Dinka acknowledged the challenges encountered in implementing the Valueable Network project objectives in Croatia. Finding motivated individuals to actively contribute to the project and ensuring timely completion of deadlines remains a hurdle. Another obstacle lies in finding suitable companies willing to employ young individuals with Down syndrome who may require additional support and training in the workplace. Nonetheless, HZDS shows businesses in the hospitality sector that employing persons with intellectual disabilities is not only possible but beneficial by leveraging the Valueable experiences. Dinka also expressed her view on the role of EDSA in fostering positive impact. She emphasised the importance of EDSA as a platform for different organisations across Europe to share best practices, learn from one another, and collectively drive change in policies and social attitudes. Dinka highlighted the need to encourage more active participation from individuals with disabilities in advocacy efforts. We must acknowledge the valuable opportunities Europe offers and continue to push for a more inclusive and empowered society for all, not just some.


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