Honoring International Day of Persons with Disabilities
When the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was approved by the United Nations in 1992, Edi was a tiny boy, one of ten siblings. At age seven, his parents took Edi and his sister from their Romanian village to an orphanage for children with intellectual disabilities. He had never gone to school and the institution offered no education.
Education was not the only one thing sorely missing from their lives: they also had little human kindness. And as a young boy in a harsh, sometimes abusive institution from which he had no escape, Edi must have felt a lack of hope as well.
Thankfully, Edi’s story didn’t end there.
When Edi was 13 he and 40 other children and teens were removed from the institution and put into a supported group home program run by Mosaic’s in-country partner Motivation Romania.
Edi is an example of both the sadness of life behind institutional walls, and the wonderful things individuals with disabilities can accomplish once they have support and life in the community.
Today, Edi works full-time in a medical supply company, helping to fill orders at the distribution center. He lives, like many young men his age in Romania, in his own private room and shares a bathroom. He stays close to his Motivation Romania family – where the staff have been like family to him for more than a decade, and continue to encourage and support him.
Each Dec. 3, the international community comes together across the globe to celebrate people with disabilities. There are still hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities not included in our society. They are often denied education, medical services and most of all, dignity.
Despite the vast amount of work still to be done, we know that hope and change will win. There is proof everywhere we work. Many children with intellectual disabilities in our program in Tanzania are now studying in the first inclusive education program in their area. Edi and all of those in his program in Romania are continuing to thrive and make their way into adult life in their communities, not behind walls and iron fences.
Perhaps biggest of all, the United Nation’s 15-year Sustainable Development Goals have finally included disability-specific targets and paid special attention to inclusion of people with disabilities in areas of development including education, employment and healthcare.
So this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, let us not forget those who are still hidden away.
Let us not forget the families who, because of shame and stigma, still feel pressure to institutionalize their newborn because of disability.
Let us not forget those raising children at home in places where there is no support, there are no community services, and there is social isolation because of their choice.
Let us not forget the families who have to hide their child away in the home because of fear for their safety.
We know it can be different. We know it can be better. We know there is hope.
We have seen it, thanks to Edi.