Think that another year has come and gone. The years do go faster and faster! Can it be as the saying goes – time goes fast when you are having fun?
Is our work fun? Well, yes and no! Fun to carry out but not fun that we have to continually fight for rights and for progress and have to experience backlash instead of progress!
It was great to meet many new people last year and for ENIL to gain new members! The youth are especially on the rise and this is GREAT. The youth is our future! You will hear me say that many times this year as the theme for the 2015 Freedom Drive is – The New Independent Living Generation!
New partnerships are rewarding! Carrying out the Hate Crime Conference in Zagreb through collaboration with ODIHR – Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights at OSCE – Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Croatian Disability Ombudsman was a real pleasure. ENIL has worked with Joanna Perry from ODIHR, but this was the first time we have worked with Anka Slonjsak, the Croatian Disability Ombudsman. There was much energy and inspiration to gain from the conference held in Zagreb and there are new plans for another regional conference this year. The Project Zero partnership has also been great and is promising as this year the Project Zero conference will be on Independent Living. It takes place in February, so stay tuned for updates on the conference and help to spread the good examples on Independent Living that have been gathered through the Project Zero research! A new agreement has been signed with ULOBA, which becomes the ENIL Northern Regional Office, with Tove Linnea Brandvik in the lead – see photo from the signing of the document!
Coming to a little country such as San Marino to promote Independent Living was also a fun and inspirational experience and one that gave perspective. In bigger countries we talk about distribution being unequal between for example the urban and rural areas. In San Marino, there are only about 30 000 people, so how do they make ends meet and provide social services for those in need?
The study visit to CIL Spectrum was yet another inspirational event. The Greeks went home to start a CIL having new energy from the meeting and information on how a CIL works and focuses on employment of disabled people. The Walk of Shame that took place in Brussels on May 5th for the first European Independent Living Day had many on the streets! It was only one of the numerous events that took place across Europe focused on the cuts and how they are threatening us, disabled people!
The Walk of Shame started a debate within the ENIL Board about whether the Freedom Drive should take place in Brussels 2015 instead of in Strasbourg, permitting stronger lobby within the European Commission (EC) as well as with the MEPs. The result – Brussels won! Besides the MEPs and the EC, many EU organizations have their seat in Brussels. It was found that travel is less complicated to Brussels though hotels may prove more expensive and transport less accessible. But that then means our Freedom Drive is important to activate progress in making Brussels more accessible, being the EU capital!
This letter could be very long but I do want to keep it short. I will finish on the note that collaboration is one of our great strengths. ENIL published the Myth Buster in December and would like to thank Dave Lupton from Crippen Cartoons for drawing the cartoons! This was a great collaboration. Please do as other CILs – plan for translation of the myth buster into your national language and spread it around!
Wishing us all 2015 filled with activity and progress for Independent Living!!!
Jamie Bolling – ENIL Executive Director