Change your life! We show that it is possible!

Valentin from Romania. Credits: LEAD

Young adults with disabilities from Romania, Lithuania and Portugal who have enrolled as beneficiaries in LEAD project make day-to-day progress, with the help of LEAD team, by benefiting from collaborative and partnership relationships developed by the partner organisations, accessing lifelong-learning and personal development programs available in the mentioned countries.

Up to the end of LEAD project, 450 young adults with disabilities (180 from Romania, 150 from Lithuania and 120 from Portugal) will benefit from equal opportunities for social and professional integration. Also, Supported Employment services will be provided by Health Action Overseas Romania, Valakupiai Rehabilitation Center and Consultis – Consultoria Empresarial, Unipessoal Lda for 165 young adults with disabilities (60 from Romania, 60 from Lithuania and 45 from Portugal).

We want to share with other young adults the experiences of those who are already working with our team, and talk about difficulties, while focusing on discussing about the will and the perseverance of overcoming them and about the constant steps made by them for a better life.

We continue this series with the stories of Donatas from Lithuania, of Andréand of Déborafrom Portugal, and of Andrei and Valentin from România.

Donatas, administrative clerk at UAB DSP Plius (Lithuania)

Donatas moves in a wheelchair, but says he has not faced any difficulties in finding a job. Currently, the young man works as an administrative clerk at UAB DSP Plius. When he decided to get a job, he succeeded to get employed after his third job interview. By a happy coincidence, while Donatas was looking for a job, the director of UAB DSP Plius, Irma Spudienud, was interested in hiring a person with a mobility disability. Irma made this decision after her mother was immobilized in a wheelchair after an unsuccessful operation.

When Irma met Donatas, she had been looking for a suitable person with disabilities for two years, although the requirements for the job were not high. Donatas was exactly the right person: he is educated, speaks the English language and works on a computer. After Donatas was employed, only handrails needed to be installed at the entrance, and the workplace was ready. Now, the company’s management enjoys having a good employee. Donatas’ only problem is that cars blocking the entrance to the building.

Donatas says he sees a lot of people with disabilities who don’t work and he has no doubt that everyone has to start working with themselves first. “I agree that the state should give something to the employer so that they would want to employ a person with disabilities. Let’s say a salary subsidy. After all, there are people who can’t work alone, and they need help. But each person must take care of themselves; they should study, learn new things and not close themselves in their own world. Various internships and volunteering can help them gain experience”, says Donatas. He graduated from high school with all the other pupils and says that it never occurred to him that he could not study. It is true that Donatas started using a wheelchair two years ago; before, he walked with crutches for 10 years.

Donatas’ father always encouraged him not to give up onhaving a normal life

Donatas is a public relations specialist, but he has never worked in this field. While still studying, he tried various jobs. He worked in a call center and a logistics company, but he realized that he did not like working in these fields and started looking for something else. His father constantly encouraged him to move on, and did not consider his son to be different because of his disability. Moreover, he encouraged Donatas to make all efforts, and to not become lazy. Donatas’ father demanded from his son as much as he would havefrom any other person without disabilities. “If I didn’t show effort at work, my father would say he wouldn’t be able to take care of me all my life (I don’t have a father anymore),” says Donatas.

According to the young man, his father’s attitude made him understand that he must be as independent as possible and do everything by himself. Donatas says that work has a great influence on human self-esteem. Without work, self-esteem decreases each year and motivation for work decreases as well. He says he understands people with disabilities; most of them lack self confidence, because they thought they could not do anything for a lifetime. “When you hear the word “No” 20 times, you lose your motivation and courage to get a job. I got used to it and learned to react more easily to some things. After a period of failure, I return with a new experience, and I try to go forward again”, says Donatas.

André, worker in the Sports Division of the Municipality of Barreiro (Portugal)

André, a young man with an intellectual disability, is one of the first beneficiaries of the LEAD project in Portugal. He lives with his grandparents, and in his spare time he has a special interest in the area of computers.

He had a professional experience in the United Kingdom through a temporary staffing agency. He worked mainly as a warehouse operator, a position in which he needed to be disciplined, organised and persistent. André did not physically resist working in the warehouse, so he decided to return to Portugal.

In order to find a suitable job in his home country, André contacted the Consultis team. The Supported Employment specialists from the LEAD team identified her needs, interests, concerns, expectations, skills, and abilities, creating his vocational profile. Then, his employment potential was evaluated and an individual action plan was developed. He has been placed in the Sports Division of the Municipality of Barreiro, near the capital Lisbon. The follow-up support plan is in action.

André is very happy because: he has a routine, he is busy, he has a job and he feels integrated into society. Family members also feel calmer, because they understand that their grandson is on the way to an independent life. The LEAD team in Portugal is very pleased that they have contributed to improve Andre’s quality of life.

Débora, child caregiver in Barreiro (Portugal)

Débora is a young woman with an intellectual disability who lives with her mother and grandmother. In her free time, she likes to stroll and watch television.

She was unemployed and she looked for support to find a job with the help of her family. Débora found out about the services offered by the Centre of Supported Employment Services opened within the LEAD project and addressed our colleagues from Consultis. After vocational profiling and evaluation of her employment potential, an individual action plan was implemented. Then, our colleagues from Portugal found her a job as a child caregiver, the main tasks of Débora being: providing support to the kindergarten teacher; accompanying children to the toilet; assistance in making children’s meal; monitoring children at recess, cleaning classrooms and facilities.

Débora was supported and monitored throughout the placement process by our colleagues from Consultis. She was helped in order to manage her difficulties, expectations, anxieties, etc. The LEAD team from Portugal has also provided support to the employer, namely the Education Divison of the Municipality of Barreiro.

Débora is very happy because she got a paid job in a professional area of her preference. Our colleagues are very pleased that the services delivered have proved useful and continue to continue to provide the necessary support to Débora, in the process of professional and social integration.

Andrei, worker in an important toy store in Constanţa (Romania)

Andrei is a 22-year-old young man, institutionalized, diagnosed with mixed deafness. He was recommended to the HAO team by the staff of the General Directorate of Social Assistance and Child Protection Constanta, because he really needed a job. At the time when he requested the services of our colleagues from the Services Center for Supported EmploymentConstanţa, Andrei had submitted a file to the Autonomous Administration of Public and Private Domain, in order to receive a home from the National Housing Agency.

Following the vocational profiling, our colleagues identified several fields of activity that suit the young man and together with him, they made an individual action plan both on the short and long term. Andrei has various skills, so it was easy for our colleagues to find a job for him. The HAO team approached an employer that is partner of the Foundation. Although there is no open position at the time, the employer made an exception for Andrei.

The young man received support and consultancy before the job interview, at one of the largest toy retailers from the country, so as not to miss the opportunity to receive the job.

Andrei has been working for almost three months and has quickly adapted to the requirements of the new job. During this time, the HAO team intervened to mediate some of the emotional issues he had due to his biological family. In this respect, our colleague collaborated not only with the staff of the institution, but also with the employer. The young man is very pleased with the change in his life; he integrated well in the team. Also, he successfully fulfills his duties, so the store manager even has proposed to give him a bonus.

Valentin, employed at the San Marco pizzeria in Constanţa (Romania)

The young man, aged 25, diagnosed with mild mental retardation, is one of the first beneficiaries of the LEAD project in Romania. He turned to the services offered by HAO within the mentioned project in 2019. At the time of enrollment, he studied at a post-secondary school specializing in massage and had a part-time job at Pink Post, the largest private postal service operator in Romania.

At that time, Valentin’s dream was to become a masseur. In this regard, at the urging of HAO’s Supported Employment Specialists, the young man participated in job fairs, where he was interviewed by representatives of several hotels, who were looking for masseurs for SPA centers. Unfortunately, due to his lack of experience, Valentin was not employed.

Then, the young man benefited from vocational counseling. Our specialist discussed with him about the transferable skills and about the employment opportunities he could have if he accepted the idea of a new career direction.

This summer, after the young man finished his schooling, he returned to the Constanţa Services Center for Supported Employment Constanţa to receive career counseling and to be supported to find a full-time job. Our team considered that the young man, with his skills and his personality structure, would be a very good potential employee for San Marco pizzeria, one of the companies with which HAO collaborates very well. Thus, as soon as there was a vacant position, our Supported Employment specialists obtained for Valentin an interview with the company’s representatives. Also, our colleagues advised and prepared him for the job interview. Subsequently, the young man was assisted by our colleagues throughout the employment process, being helped with obtaining his occupational medicine file and his criminal record and with filling his employment file.

Even in pandemic conditions, the employer allowed assistance at workplace, so our team has ensured that Valentin adapts well and he is suitable for this job. Two months after being employed, the young man is very happy, keeps in touch with HAO specialists, goes to work with pleasure and enjoys harmonious relationships with his colleagues.


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