This month we celebrated World Down Syndrome day on 21.03 – a symbolic date for people living with trisomy 21. On occasion of this, we would like to share testimonies from two of our partner associations in Turkey and Hungary about their work with Valueable and for the empowerment of persons with Down Syndrome.
The partnership between Valueable and Down Syndrome Association of Türkiye began in 2017. For WDSD2022 we have interviewed two of its members. Merve Özman is the current Project Coordinator in charge of promoting Valueable in Turkey. She works enthusiastically to find new businesses in the hospitality sector that are open to joining the Valueable Network, and to increase employment opportunities for persons with Down Syndrome. As an accompanying tutor in 2018 she spent 3 weeks with 2 trainees in Porto. She recounts this trip as “challenging but rewarding”.
Cansu Sulakçı is one of the trainees who partook in the Valueable internship abroad to Porto, a city she had never visited before. At that time Cansu was unemployed, so this was a great chance for her to learn new transferable skills, which are now useful in her new job as a retail sales employee. For her, social inclusion means being able to live alone; having a stable job is a necessary prerequisite for this dream to come true. She told us: “I am happy to be working because staying at home is boring, I don’t like it when I don’t have a job”. Valueable’s mission is targeted exactly towards making these operations materialise. Any project in this domain must remain conscious about the voices, wants and needs of persons with disabilities in order to successfully empower them.
Katalin Gruiz is the founder and president of Down Alapitvany. She is a passionate activist and leading voice in the battle for social inclusion and advocate for the rights of persons with Down Syndrome. The foundation based in Hungary has been active since 1986 as an informal group of parents, who shared a common dream; now it is celebrating its 30 years anniversary from when it was officially recognised as an NGO in 1992. Today they have around 500 employees, half of them with an intellectual disability.
Katalin has shared her insights on how the involvement with Valueable Projects has strengthened the credibility of Down Alapitvany at the national level and helped lead positive change in the hospitality sector.
She informed us that an international project like Valueable has two core benefits for the Down Alapitvany Foundation:
(i) gives a concrete frame of activities
(ii) empowers us to counter the outdated and stigmatising attitudes towards disability held by some political and governmental actors, which are also perpetuated by other stakeholders, including family, school and religious contexts.
Thanks to the Valueable traineeships, DS employees interact with colleagues from the hospitality service, but also with guests and clients; this allows the employee to be more visible. Surprisingly, workplaces are more open for inclusion in Hungary than the school system or health and social system, which are predominantly based on outdated models, such as the medical approach to disability.
We hope that other countries will follow these examples, paving the way for a more inclusive and less ableist European society.