This past June, the Chancellery of the European Citizen’s Prize (ECP) awarded WYA Europe’s (WYAE) project, “Social Integration of Individuals with Trisomy 21 in European Society,” the European Citizen’s Prize Award for the year 2023 for the country of Belgium.
The European Citizen’s Prize is an award given to those organizations that “contribute to European cooperation and the promotion of common values.” Of 216 organizations that presented themselves to win the prize, 38 projects were selected to win an award, including WYAE’s project for Down Syndrome Day. This prize can only be won once per organization.
The winning project started with a conversation to create an event to help set the first batch of WYA Europe interns apart from existing work. The WYAE Regional Director of Operations, Ina Delic, and the Regional Director of Advocacy, Ramon Barba Castro, wanted to do something for Down Syndrome Day. And then everything seemed to come together seamlessly.
It is the European Year of Skills, which “helps people get the right skills for quality jobs,” which is an important interest for those with Down Syndrome, and other non-profits were also willing to organize an event in the European Parliament (EP) regarding the issue of Down Syndrome. It was the perfect moment to raise awareness about such a common illness that is about to disappear in the long term, as it may only exist in a culture that embraces life.
The ECP looks for these features in a project to judge whether or not they will receive an award: The promotion of mutual understanding and closer integration between people in the EU, cross-border cooperation that aims to build a stronger European Spirit, and the promotion of EU values and fundamental rights.
“Every year, people seem more and more emotional, aiming to focus on our small differences rather than on all the big things we have in common.” Says Ramon, “In a way, it reminded us that inclusion of those that are different and the protection and promotion of life, are not solitary acts that depend on your moral, religious, or political beliefs; these are universal values that come from goods that are morally good as such and therefore universal.”
One participant of WYAE’s project shared, “[The event was] excellent. It was a concrete discussion on possibilities for improvement of rights and living conditions of persons with trisomy.”
Ina shares that the biggest takeaway of the event was the partnership between organizations and Members of the European Parliament. “After the event, we started planning new events, and we plan to organize another successful event in the near future.”
Finally, Ramon and Ina would like to express their gratitude to our interns who greatly contributed to the success of this event with their efforts: Mary Nula Mulroy, Esther Martin Sanchez, Agnieszka Mackow, and Krishna Jaiswal.