So Shaun, you went to Nicaragua with Phil a few months ago to deliver some training! Can you tell me a little more about this- I’m intrigued?
Yes! We were working with CBM. They wanted us to deliver training on employment, how to make co-working really work, Easy Read information, Peer-to-Peer support and role-modelling.
What was it like for you to travel so far to deliver training?
Very interesting! I hadn’t travelled that far before- it was a new experience. It was a bit scary at the same time as I had to take charge with the directions in the airport because Phil and I decided to take turns.
What were your impressions of Nicaragua?
Lovely people, very beautiful countryside- hot, hot, hot!!
How long were you there for?
We delivered three days training to Politicians, Disability Leaders, Community Leaders, People with learning disabilities and parents. It was an honour and it was amazing.
How did you train people around these issues?
We gave presentations, we did lots of group work, we played lots of games and we had lots of discussions. I supported people with learning disabilities to feel included. I was making sure the group was ok and that people with learning disabilities had a strong voice. I could see people with learning disabilities getting more and more confident.
Was there a language barrier?
We had an interpreter because In Nicaragua they speak Spanish. We managed to communicate well!
What do you feel you achieved by training people in Nicaragua?
I feel like we were showing to the people with a learning disability that were present, how people like myself, a person with a learning disability, are working and have a proper salary. We are taking our power. We are equal. I felt like I was breaking barriers just by people seeing me deliver a presentation and making sure the group was run ok. I was showing that I was equal to Phil, the person without a learning disability. I thought that was really good. We were showing the group what they were talking about, Co-working, Empowerment, Inclusion in action! It was great!
A lot of people there were quite inspired because I was speaking about my experience at work.
I think I inspire people with learning disabilities to speak up and I surprise people without learning disabilities.
What were your main achievements in Nicaragua?
I talked about my experience living in Keyring, supporting my peers to become more independent and do things for themselves, such as setting up bank accounts, and going shopping.
It was quite a new concept over there. I think they had never seen a person with a learning disability do co-working and deliver training before. It was all new.
What we all achieved was amazing!
We introduced Easy Read into Nicaragua! We were talking about what accessible information is. We talked about the Words to Pictures team who are our easy read quality checkers with learning disabilities at CHANGE. We talked about how we make jargon into easy to understand English. I told them about how people with learning disabilities are the experts on this topic and how we all work together to produce Easy Read documents.
The Government Ministers on our training gave a speech at the end and they said that as a result of our training they are going to introduce:
Easy Read into Nicaragua
Self Advocacy into Nicaragua
The employment of people with learning disabilities in senior roles into Nicaragua.
I talked to them about my role, my responsibilities. They told me about their hopes and their dreams.
They were inspired by the co-worker model.
What do you take back from this experience?
I was just so happy to see people with learning disabilities to be inspired to change how things are.
I think I inspired people!
Most people there did not work, mostly volunteering. They were all interested in my job!
Where would you like to go next?
Africa, Brazil, America!
I am a big believer in supporting people getting paid jobs and getting the right support to make this happen. Then, they can help other people in the community! They can be champions.
You could see the shock on people’s faces in Nicaragua as people with learning disabilities were becoming passionate and started to have a real voice. You could see it happening as we were there!
I am so happy we got the ball rolling! I love working with others to make a difference.
In Nicaragua I felt that together with the people with learning disabilities there, we got the top people with power to see us differently. I felt so proud!
By Shaun Webster MBE