ABOUT IHTIS ASSOCIATION
In Romania, there is a unanimous tendency to focus on what the physically challenged youth and those suffering from severe disabilities CANNOT do. Nobody speaks about the other extreme – the gifted physically disabled people. Disabilities are often more visible and prevent both the emergence of giftedness and its discovery. Most children and young people with severe physical disabilities face this problem–although they have a normal IQ, they are capable of self-representation, of social integration and able to speak to the world through their works.
In 2001 I met the staff on an NGO from France, they were adults with severe physical disabilities accompanied by volunteers – students to help them dress, feed and move from one place to another. But in our direct dialogue they were selfrepresented, they were sharing their experience as an NGO leaders by typing on some keyboards placed in front of them (they were not even able to talk). At that time I thought: „If they can, I must make it too”. Three years of online self-information followed, along with courses related to what means an NGO. No sacrifice was too much for my goal. I imagined an NGO that provides the chance of selfadvocacy for youth with severe physical disabilities. THIS IS HOW, IN 2004, IHTIS WAS FOUNDED.
The mission of IHTIS is the creation of the premises for the social integration of the children and young people with severe physical disabilities having a normal IQ, a wish for self representation and a strong will. The mission is accomplished through counseling, training, advocacy and cultural activities based on orthodox principles.
The members of IHTIS Association believe in the same saying, even if they have or don’t have physical disabilities: “Everything is possible”. They are strong believers in the fact that we can be “Together at full potential”.
IHTIS is based on 7 fundamental values that illustrate our mission:
1. True Confession/Belief – any child with severe physical disabilities is chased in life by the expression: „you will never get anything done”. It’s a limit that can easily be surpassed, if only we think of the saying: „what is impossible for the people is possible for God”
2. Acts – no matter what disabilities would have, anybody can become from „socially assisted” into „a resource in society”, when he or she can say about himself/herself „I can do this”
3. Dignity – the physical disability doesn’t break anybody’s dignity. Any gesture that blocks solving a situation represents an act of discrimination that must be signaled and eliminated.
4. Responsibility – establishing a personal program for self improvement in an autonomous way, program relevant for own capacities and needs. I WANT doesn’t need to be addressed to somebody, but it must be the expression of the will to obtain independently what is needed.
5. Equal chances – participating in common actions means to evaluate the abilities with similar criteria. When the chances are equal, there is no discrimination and no clemency for the participants with disabilities.
6. Social Integration – being a part of a group with similar aspirations and concerns, through auto-representation. Social Integration manifests itself when the young person with disabilities can be surrounded by people with similar beliefs that he can trust, he can talk to, and he can trust, team players that he can interact for achieving a common goal.
7. Independent Life – the liberty to decide how, when, where, how much and by whom I’m helped, according to the wanted way of life
- Encouraging young people with disabilities to want an active life
- Making the society aware of the rights, obligation and capacities of the young person with disabilities
- Sensitize people in sustaining and encouraging the active participation of young people with physical disabilities, thus acknowledging them as a being part of the society.
- Promoting the concept of Independent life
- Providing approved social services, by planning and implementing projects and programs regarding the augmentation of the independence degree of the children and young people with physical disabilities. They need to be independent from members of their family and from the environment they live in.
- Training the children and the young people with severe physical disabilities (with a normal IQ).
- Developing the Peer Counseling method (counseling and aid offered by people with physical disabilities to other people with physical disabilities – sharing personal experience).
“WHAT CAN I DO FOR MY COMMUNITY?” is IHTIS project that promote the young people with physical disabilities as resources within society and individually involving them, among children and young people without disabilities, into common activities. Thus, the project emphasizes that “being a citizen does not only mean to live in a society, but also to change it”.
As project coordinator and an active albeit severely challenged individual myself, I speak from my 43 years of experience: I do believe in the importance and need for:
– Real networking between young people with and without physical disabilities, thus facilitating communication, socializing and fighting prejudice;
– Encouraging public manifestation of native abilities of the young people with or without physical disabilities, thus emphasizing legislative issues such as equal opportunities”, “social integration”, “self-representation”, “social activism”.
– Proving that physical deficiencies do not diminish human dignity or social status of the young people with severe physical disabilities;
– Developing relationships with new partners from home country or abroad, based on common values and work ethic of our organizations;
The important parties to the project are an association and a commercial society that supported IHTIS in recent years.
During the six operational years, we became one family that mass-media define as follows: “IHTIS association is the school of those refusing to give up and to accept defeat and who do not know words such as ”Cannot”.
As any other school, IHTIS also provides learning activities for each of its members, regardless of their disabilities.
All IHTIS members – including staff members – are represented by physically disabled people. This aspect is less important for us. Each individual defines himself through his needs, capacities, ideals and performances and we would like the society to perceive us as we reveal ourselves in front of it. Not otherwise.
The third award and mention during the Civil Society Gala – 2009,
Special Award ERSTE and Mention during the Civil Society Gala 2010,
One Excellence Diploma earned at International Folklore Festival “Dobroge, mandra gradina” 2010
… illustrates the place IHTIS has among other NGOs.