Way to Independence
Tirana May 2008
Lulieta Rugji is a former institutionalized woman with physical disability who spent almost 20 years of her life in residential institutions. She was an excellent swimmer at her 20ties, and her brother too, but after both of them got muscular dystrophy and since than they lived in separated residential care settings.
After the communist regime collapse, many state-owned residential institutions deteriorated at the point that they were closed and Lulieta finished in the psychiatric hospital of Tirana although her diagnosis had nothing to do with the service of psychiatry.
After some years, the hospital authorities decided to discharge Lulieta from the hospital without designating a place for her where to go, so, one day, she found herself at the gate of hospital told to leave from there. Without family support that she lost some 20 years ago, and without knowing where to go, she felt desperate to death. Finding Lulieta on the road, Brigit, a maintenance hospital staff, who had finished her job shift, decided to take Lulieta for sometime in her ‘home’, which was one room only, and where Brigit was living with her son as a single mother. Lulieta lived in this room for another 10 years.
Being out of institution, Lulieta got in contact with other people with disabilities; she heard that some of them had created their clubs, groups and organizations. She decided with a group of women and men with muscular dystrophy to create their organization called “Hope for Life”. Since then, she has been very active to voice the problems and barriers that society has put against people with disabilities.
Through Share See project in Albania, Lulieta heard about other DPOs in the region. Her main surprise was the concept of Independent Living (IL), she heard during the training sessions of Share See. Through the exchange program of Share See, Lulieta went in Serbia to see how the philosophy of IL worked out at CIL Serbia. The Philosophy of IL means that disabled people are demanding to live like any body else, and t have same opportunity to make a choice, bring their own decisions on issues of their own lives, to control services that are provided for them and to take responsibility for the life they want to live. It also means that the society needs to provide conditions for disabled people to achieve IL, including support services, accessibly housing and transport, employment and sustainably income. She meet there new friends, like Gordana and Borivoje, who were leading the CIL and with whom she talked about IL and visited the center.
While she came back to Albania, she spread the word to her friends about the IL and CIL. So, many DPOs asked to know more about IL and Share See organized a three days seminar on IL, in Tirana, where the trainers were Gordana and Borivoje. Being told and trained on IL by two PWD was another surprise to Albanian PWDs who until then have seen in front of them only trainers without disabilities. These exchanges of ideas and experiences within Share See project, especially the contact with CIL, resulted in a great knowledge benefit for Lulieta and her DPO.
Since then, they have been working to spread out the idea of IL and lately they have set up the first CIL in Albania which will be a lab to experiment IL under local conditions. They do still have to learn a lot by CIL Serbia and other CILs experiences to provide themselves better chances to achieve independent living and live independently a life with dignity.