In February, Inclusion Ireland staff members Paul Alford and Robert Murtagh travelled to Moscow, Russia, to deliver self-advocacy training to an organisation called Perspektiva – Best Buddies Russia.
Best Buddies Russia is an organisation that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, assists with employment and develops leadership with people with physical and intellectual disabilities. They have their main office based in Moscow, but also have regional offices in the Russian cities Voronezh and Vologda. Best Buddies Russia has over 300 participants and run various programmes including:
- Friendship programmes
- Supported Employment programmes
- Leadership programmes
Best Buddies were very interested in learning more about self-advocacy, how the movement for self-advocacy developed in Ireland, and what people with disabilities in Russia could learn from this. Over the course of 5 days, people with intellectual disabilities and staff members from Best Buddies Russia received training in what self-advocacy is, and ways to support and promote self-advocacy in Russia. The training involved:
- Exploring what is meant by choice
- Looking at ways to speak up for yourself
- What independent living might look like
- How to set up self-advocacy groups
There was great participation from all involved and those participants with disabilities happily sharing their experiences with us. It was really interesting to see that the issues and challenges facing people with intellectual disabilities are very similar to those that people in Ireland experience. Participants talked about the low expectations people often have of them, the challenges they face trying to get a job or the challenges they have accessing third-level education.
Overall, the trip was a great success with Inclusion Ireland and Best Buddies Russia sharing experiences and learning a lot from each other’s work about the challenges people with disabilities face both in Russia and in Ireland.