Written by Jyrki Pinomaa, president of Inclusion Europe.
Dear members and friends of Inclusion Europe,
The year 2020 is coming to its end. This has been a very different year. It has been a year of the pandemic and the world we used to know has changed significantly. However, and sadly, for people with intellectual disabilities, most of the problems already existed, and have simply been exacerbated and sometimes made visible to the general public.
You, our members, have during this year shown what strong European inclusion movement is made of. I feel proud to be President of this movement and I wish to express my sincere gratitude to all of you for your commitment!
You undertook a tremendous amount of work to provide support during the pandemic. You advocated to uphold the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities and their families across Europe. You provided support and care. You stepped in to fill so many gaps in how the governments informed the public about the situation. Governments turned to you in the time of crisis.
All your work demonstrates the power of our inclusion movement. It demonstrates the value of our work for inclusion. It demonstrates the need of us constantly reminding our societies about the UNCRPD and the human rights that belong to everyone.
Inclusion Europe connects organisations of people with intellectual disabilities and their families throughout Europe. First and foremost, we represent our member organisations in 40 European countries. But as our main goal is full inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities across Europe, we can say that we represent families with more than 20 million people.
These families consist of people with intellectual disabilities, their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sometimes uncles and aunts, grandparents.
For almost 35 years I have been a member of a disability organization – local, national, European and International. During these years I have met a lot of parents and other family members to children with intellectual disabilities and there is one thing that never ceases to astonish me.
I call it the power of peer support. Meeting with other parents or family members of children with intellectual disabilities is always so easy – we seem to be connected immediately. We do not have to explain ourselves, and we understand each other from the very first words.
I am sure that I will keep on experiencing this power also during the coming years. Because I know that we will use it to spread our message of inclusion. We will use it to strengthen our movement in Europe. We will use it to make our voice heard. We will use it to promote community living and to promote a Europe where people with intellectual disabilities are included – equally deserving, equally entitled and equally human. We will use it to encourage and support the families to live like any other family.
Also, our secretariat in Brussels has throughout the pandemic worked under circumstances that have never been experienced before. Neither the pandemic nor the circumstances are over yet. We have had new staff members and interns joining us and working with us without a possibility to meet each other. All our events and meetings went online, and the work plan was applied to a digital environment. The staff has been isolated from each other, working from their homes, and yet been able to maintain a sense of belonging.
I wish to thank each and every single one of you in our secretariat for your hard work and your flexibility, determination, control and endurance during this very hard year.
I also wish to thank and express my admiration to all of our members and other organizations supporting people with intellectual disabilities and families during these difficult times. Your work has been essential.
And all my thoughts, solidarity and respect to all those with disabilities and family members dealing with the impact of the pandemic and supporting each other.
I wish us all a very Merry Christmas and, definitely, a much better New Year 2021!