It was back in February 2020 that we had our last face-to-face meeting with the children and young people with deafblindness. It was a winter encounter, with tons of snow and lots of smiles and happiness as they all had their very first experience skiing. And then the pandemic came and we had to put a stop to all such experiences, moving as much as possible into the online.
Of the things we moved online was the advocacy and leadership work with a small group of young adults with deafblindness. Since January, every last Thursday of the month was about them, discussing important themes such as the right to education, to health, to work and employment, keeping safe while online and the right to fun, leisure and sports.
The beginnings were not easy at all, trying to communicate while online proved more of a challenge than we expected. Poor internet connection, insufficient face and body language, all of these made it difficult to communicate. Having a sign language interpreter improved things a lot, the group started becoming more vocal, sharing ideas and personal experiences, getting to know and trust each other.
July came and, after carefully considering all the risks, we took the decision to finally have a face-to-face meeting with the group. We all gathered together in Predeal, seven brave young people – 3 young women and 4 young men – accompanied by 5 parents and 1 sibling.
We had serious discussions about what deafblindness is. To some of the young people, it was a revelation to understand that them, having both hearing and visual impairments, meant they were young people with deafblindness. We talked about people with disabilities in general, and people with deafblindness in particular, who made it in life and succeeded in overcoming all challenges. We talked about the importance of education and how this leads to an independent life, we talked about their rights as per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. We talked about what it means to write a resume, to look for a job, go to an interview, sign a work contract – what are the rights and responsibilities involved. Because the entire group consisted of young people over the age of 18, therefore young adults, we discussed the concept and importance of volunteering and, by the end of the workshop, they all agreed to become volunteers of Sense International Romania, advocates for the rights of people with deafblindness.
We had fun as well together, taking a trip by train to visit Peleș Castle in Sinaia. While the hike to the castle was quite hard for some of the participants, everyone – young people and parents alike – enjoyed getting there and admiring all the beauties of the castle. Upon return, we created and hand-painted frames for a photo session at the end of the meeting.
I really enjoyed our trip to Peles Castle in Sinaia! But there is something that I enjoyed even more than that… it is the serenity, the joy, the boldness… I am not sure which word is the better choice, to want more for our children – not in a fierce way but somehow naturally!
said S.T., the mother of a young man who graduated the vocational services developed by Sense International Romania and the partner school.