My name is Luminiţa Căldăraş. I am 37 years old and I have an intellectual disability. I was born in a village in west Romania into a very poor family with eight children. My parents couldn’t take care of us. We lived in one room with no beds, no toys, and sometimes no food. We collected recyclables and sold then to earn some money.
When I was eight I left home and went to Timisoara, the largest city in western Romania. There I lived on the streets for almost 10 years, begging for money and food. My only friend was a dog. By the time I turned 18, I had been taken to several state institutions in various cities, but the living conditions were very poor there as well and I would always run away. I didn’t go to school at all.
It was in 1999 that I found out about the Pentru Voi Foundation, and it changed my life forever. The foundation supports people with intellectual disabilities, and now I live in one of Pentru Voi’s protected homes, where I have my own room. Living here I have learned a lot of things, such as how to communicate with my colleagues, to cook (I even took a cooking training course), to clean, to make candles, to work in the garden, and even to read. Since 2012, I have been a full-time employee of Pentru Voi Social Enterprises. My main job here is cleaning, but I also do other activities such as assembling, sorting, and gardening.
I now have my own money, so I can buy food, clothes, and other things I need. I also have the ability to visit my poor family from time to time. In addition, I was elected as a member of the European Platform of Self-Advocates (EPSA) board, and I represent EPSA at the Women’s Committee of the European Disability Forum. I speak on behalf of people with intellectual disabilities from my country, and I promote their inclusion and respect for their rights.