Parkland CLASS is currently undertaking five self-advocacy projects in Argentina with its principal partners (ITINERIS, AMIA, AMAR, and Cottolengo Don Orione). These projects directly involve intellectually disabled adults and combine education, support, and mentoring to prepare participants to increase personal control over their lives and advance their status and involvement in self-advocacy, self-determination, and individual rights within their homes, institutional services, and communities.
The Parkland – Argentina Self-advocacy Initiative supports a paradigm change which will benefit intellectually disabled individuals. The new paradigm is congruent with the values and principles taught through the ITINERIS education program with the intended goals of impacting the lives of disabled individuals by:
- Establishing self–determination and choice, and the capacity to honour choices moving from simple to complex decisions;
- Recognizing individual rights by transferring control and empowerment from families and frontline staff to the individual;
- Promoting self-advocacy (managing full citizenship); and
- Increasing community participation and social acceptance.
Self-advocate project participants include individuals who reside in large institutions or live with their parents and siblings in family homes. Parkland CLASS is convinced that the development and implementation of the Parkland - Argentina Self-advocacy Initiative is the next logical step in advancing the status of intellectually disabled adults in Argentina.
Examples of Parkland’s current self-advocacy initiatives include the following:
Self-advocacy is a Large Institution
Individuals with intellectual disabilities who live in institutions have few opportunities to make decisions about their own lives. This project is being developed in the largest institution in Argentina. A group of self-advocates from the Claypole Cottolengo will create and oversee the operation of a peer support group that will pursue a diversity of recreational outings for other residents. The project objectives are to provide leadership opportunities for self-advocates; to improve the interaction among the residents of the institution; to improve the interaction between self-advocates and the people in the surrounding community, and to challenge the negative bias that prevents community inclusion.
A Pilot Project to Promote Independent Living
Four Argentina organizations are working with families and a group of self-advocates in an effort to develop a network of supports that will allow eight individuals to live independently in groups of four in rented homes. The concept of independent living is new in Argentina, and the project will be monitored by government officials. The objectives of the project are to strengthen social participation, self-advocacy, and self-determination of young adults with intellectual disabilities; to promote responsible activities and behaviors inherent to independent living; to contribute to the process of joint learning on the part of families, organizations, and persons with disabilities; to identify and articulate the supports that are needed to sustain the experience; and to replicate this experience in order to advance the status of disabled individuals in Argentina.
Germinate – An Opportunity in Self-employment
This project emerged as an opportunity for participants to establish social exchange through the development and sale of products. Germinate consists in the production of plants, cuttings, flowerpots, and cards. Its principal beneficiaries are young adults who participate in the AMAR association of Argentina. The general objectives are to build a network of natural supports to facilitate social exchanges in the community; to support the advancement of the principles of self-determination and full citizenship; and to generate self-employment incomes which will reinforce personal achievement, independence, and the opportunity to control personal expenditures.
Self-determination and Individual Rights in Rural Argentina
This project will involve a series of focus group discussions with families and self-advocates who live in rural areas. The discussions will be organized to match and compare these results with those of a similar group living in urban and suburban areas. The project will promote the values and individual rights expressed in the Pan-American Health Organization and the World Health Organization’s - 2004 Montreal’s Declaration. Self-determination and quality of life will be the key elements evaluated. These focus group interviews will be done as a joint effort with APADIM, Amanecer, and APAE, three highly respected organizations in the east of the province of Cordoba, Argentina.