Innovative Practice 2019 on Independent Living and Political Participation

Young Volunteers as Agents for Social Inclusion

Unidos Somos Iguales (Unidos, Together We Are All Equal) is an NGO based in Monterrey, Mexico that runs social inclusion programmes for people with and without disabilities. Unidos trains young people as volunteers (called allies), increasing their disability awareness. Allies then accompany people with disabilities to participate in Unidos’s integrated social programmes, for example, weekend trips within Mexico, summer camps, and other social activities. Unidos has written a programme manual to aid replication and, through social franchising, has rolled-out the programme to six cities across the country, supporting 1,877 people with disabilities in 2017.

“Unidos is the place where I learned to look beyond appearances and came to understand the real meaning of acceptance and how we can complement each other because of our diversity.”

Lula Almazána Unidos ally who became Operative Director
About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:Connecting Realities for Empathy
Organisation:Unidos Somos Iguales
Country
of Implementation
Mexico

FACTS & FIGURES

  • Number of participants with disabilities grew from 1,551 in 2015 to 1,877 in 2017.
  • Unidos supports over 1,500 people with disabilities each year across six locations in Mexico.

PROBLEMS TARGETED

National surveys have shown that people with disabilities in Mexico experience high levels of discrimination and exclusion and a lack of recognition of their rights.

SOLUTION, INNOVATION, AND IMPACTA young volunteer teaching archery to a person with disabilities.

Unidos runs programmes six times a year and has four key programmes of different durations that bring people together in social settings. These include weekend trips within Mexico for participants aged 16 and over, summer camp activities for children and young people of various ages, and regular evening activities for smaller groups. The Allies, who are volunteers aged 15 to 25, support all these activities and attend disability awareness training prior to participating in the programmes. Training addresses such issues as empathy, disability awareness, and methods of communicating with people with sensory, physical, and intellectual disabilities.

Unidos supports over 1,500 people with disabilities each year across six locations in Mexico. In its ongoing evaluations, it has found that parents of young people with disabilities who participate in the programmes say their children are more independent, have greater self-esteem, and enjoy a better sense of security. Volunteers without disabilities who attend the training and the social programmes also benefit. For example, nearly all the parents of volunteers say their children have become even more empathetic as a result.

FUNDING, OUTLOOK AND TRANSFERABILITY

Approximately half of Unidos’ revenue comes from services and workshops, for which participants pay a fee determined by their economic circumstances. Corporate and private funding accounts for 35 per cent, and the rest comes from state and federal government. The six local Unidos teams raise their own funds and pay a fee back to Unidos Nacional, which covers training, human resources, and other functions.

Unidos has developed a standardized programme manual to support replication through a social franchise model. The national Unidos team shares best practice among the local teams and offers supervision to support compliance with the organization’s standards and philosophy. In addition, Unidos has replicated the model in Chile through the Teletón Foundation, and is currently considering ways to make the replication process more efficient.

A young volunteer playing ball with a person with disabilities.

FACTSHEET

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LINKS AND FURTHER READING