By Leah Simmons, Lead Independent Living Services Coordinator
Hola again! One thing I know for sure, I miss the Argentineans’ greetings. Every time I met a person (anyone, actually), we did the Argentinean embrace and a kiss on the right cheek. It’s a very common and a very warm greeting. As a person who is deaf, I couldn’t hear their “mwah” on my cheek, but I could definitely feel me doing my “mwah” on theirs. It was very endearing. I hope you will experience that one day if you haven’t done so.
During my 10-day stay in La Plata as part of the MIUSA exchange program, I gave as much as I could and I learned so much. I met with two organizations: Asociacion Azul and Hospital Subzonal Especializado Jose Ramos Mejia. Asociacion Azul is a lot like IndependenceFirst was when we started out. Their website is in Spanish, but please go to www.asociacionazul.org.ar to get an idea. It’s a small organization and its goals are providing training for family members with loved ones with disabilities, educating community members/officials and leading various workshops for people with disabilities. Asociacion Azul is also working hard to meet with government officials to educate and obtain funding for programs and services for people with disabilities. This is a challenge because while the government supports human rights, disability rights are not as well understood.
Hospital Subzonal Especializado Jose Ramos Mejia is a group home for women with disabilities. The organization wanted to work with Asociacion Azul to give its consumers more options because the women living there are asking for independence! The staff at the site are very supportive, but were looking for more tools to work with the residents. The hospital provides housing, work opportunities, crafts and field trips. There are 67 women currently living there. They had a success story involving three women from the group home that are living independently about three blocks away from the campus. They want to follow the same path for the other 67 women.
Both organizations wanted to learn more about independent living, advocacy and personal care. I led four workshops on various Independent Living skills topics for the leaders, staff and consumers from both organizations. The picture here shows one of the workshops I gave during the week. The participants were wonderful—so eager and hungry for information and tools to use from now on. I wished I could give more. I want to go back to share even more information. One day, I will. One day.
I also gave a presentation to the Hospital Jose Ramos Mejia service providers about how IndependenceFirst started and where we are today. I shared information about our programs and services. They were very interested in the Personal Assistance Services program and how personal care workers are trained and assigned to work with consumers living in the community. One of their staff will be coming to IndependenceFirst later this month to dive into our program! I will share more about that on another blog this week.
Since I came back to the U.S., Asociacion Azul has been working with Hospital Subzonal Especializado Jose Ramos Mejia’s female consumers about being independent and becoming advocates for their own rights and needs.
I visited several places where Argentineans with disabilities hang out, tango dance and sell their homemade crafts in the street markets. I even visited different families with a family member with disabilities at their homes. They were wonderful and made me wonderful meals, treats and desserts. We talked over the meals about independent living goals and possibilities for their loved ones. They sure fed me well, and I gave them as many resources as I could. I also visited several landmarks, a cow farm (just like the ones here in Wisconsin!), the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires and more.
Until “mañana,” more stories to come!
Participation in this program was funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and managed by Mobility International USA (MIUSA). Neither of these organizations is responsible for the views expressed herein.