My time with ENIL has come to an end. I was the ESC volunteer from June to December 2021. It was an eye opening and exciting experience. I got the opportunity to support the organisation of events such as ENIL’s “Freedom Surf” in September. I was also given the chance to interact with the Secretariat of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, acting as a note taker during consultations. This gave me good knowledge of how the CRPD Committee and its Secretariat operated.
I was able to attend the National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway’s online summer school on article 30 (right to culture) of the UNCRPD and I got to try my hand at summarizing and writing commentaries based on EU policy documents such as the new European Disability Strategy 2021-2030, along with other tasks.
I believe the experience gained will help me professionally in the future, as it enabled me to expand my skill set, such as report drafting, and transcribing audio files. I also drafted and published a petition demanding an end to institutionalisation in Europe, which so far has reached almost 1,000 signatures.
However, the most important experience I got from Brussels, was the opportunity to avail of a personal assistance. Hired for me by ENIL. Luz – my PA was helpful and supportive and without their aid I would have found Brussels a lot more difficult, in terms of navigation, accessing transport, cooking, shopping etc. It enabled me to focus more on the work for ENIL and enabled me to truly live independently, something, that all disabled people should have the right to. I got to explore Waterloo, along with Leuven and a day trip to Amsterdam to visit my sister who is currently living there, and parts of the Brussels inner-city. Hopefully one day we can live in a world where – this will be the standard for everyone.
Due to COVID I did not get to go into the European Parliament to network with MEPs on behalf of ENIL, however I did get to represent ENIL on a workcation in Italy, which was definitely a highlight of my trip, going in late September till early October. Surrounded by lovely food and meeting new interesting people was a great experience.
I was a little devastated to learn of the EU’s attitude towards disability, and its apparent apathy towards ending institutionalisation. There’s a long way to go, in terms of disability emancipation across Europe and beyond, but I think I now have a better understanding of how the EU acts (and doesn’t act) towards disabled people and how it treats organisations like ENIL.
It’s just left for me to thank my supervisor Ines Bulic, my colleagues Kamil Goungor, Natasa Kokic, Stanislas Roisin, Michael Goossens, Nadia Hadad and of course last but not least Luz, for enabling me and supporting me to having new experiences that will hopefully lead to exciting new horizons in the near future.
I would also like to thank my sending organisation from the UK “Everything Is Possible” for aiding me in going to Brussels along with the JINT national agency for funding the ESC internship.
A link to my petition for anyone who wishes to sign is below: https://www.change.org/p/end-institutionalisation-of-disabled-people-in-europe