My name is Gatis Caunītis and I am disabled person since 1995. When I was six years old, I played hide and seek and entered an unlocked electrical unit and was hit with a strong power voltage, the result of which I lost both of my arms. But it hasn’t stopped me from being active and curious of life around me. And I am always ready to learn, have fun and discover new horizons…
One day, I received an email from a friend of mine with the recommendation to apply for the European Network for Independent Living (ENIL) study session, which was surprisingly cool. I decided immediately to participate and filled out the application form. Here again, I was thankful to my friend for the help, because this was my first application for such a big and important event. After a few months I got email from ENIL – Congratulations!
I had the opportunity to participate in the ENIL study session entitled “Supporting Young Disabled people to become Future Leaders of the Independent Living Movement” which took place in the European Youth Centre Strasbourg, from 21st – 28th October 2012. Altogether, nineteen young people with different disabilities from different countries all over Europe participated in the study session.
During the study session, through presentations and group work we exchanged our personal experiences and talked about many subjects, which are related to people with disabilities and society. For example, education, societies attitude towards young people with disabilities and employment. To become more acquainted with other members of the study session and their cultures, we had an intercultural evening. At the end of an official day’s session, we had the opportunity to use the youth centre’s rest room, where we could chill out and speak about the events of the day in a non-formal atmosphere. A final outcome of this study session, is the development of the basic things that should be changed and moved forward to improve the integration of people with disabilities into society which we compiled into a list of recommendations. With these recommendations, we went to European Parliament,to debate with MEP’s and with the Advisor to the Human Rights Commission about important issues. The outcome of discussion was – hope; that someone really listened to us, and will strive to make things better using the final draft of recommendations that we prepared.
Now using the knowledge I gained and experiences of other participants from other countries, I want to achieve their goals as well. I want to raise public awareness about people with disabilities and to increase and improve opportunities for people with disabilities to integrate more into society in Latvia.
It was an awesome week, with people who really want to change things to the right side. Exactly this attitude and energy is what we need for all of us.
Many thanks to all participants and the organizers! 🙂 Gatis Caunītis