Citi Foundation Invests Further USD 250,000 in Program Supporting Young People with Disabilities in Central Europe

Citi Foundation announced a second investment of $250,000 to the Ascend Program, designed to build the disability movement among young people in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. The program is run by the European Disability Forum (EDF) and this new grant takes the total investment in the program to USD 500,000.

Citi Foundation Invests Further USD 250,000 in Program Supporting Young People with Disabilities in Central Europe

The Second Phase of the Youth Disability Rights Program “Ascend” will be Implemented in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia in 2023.

Today Citi Foundation announced a new investment of $250,000 to the successful Ascend Program run by the European Disability Forum (EDF). The program was designed to build the disability movement among young people in the Central European countries of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. This new grant takes the total investment in the program to $500,000.

In the new phase, the countries will place even greater emphasis on young people living with disabilities getting involved in advocacy for their rights and accessing education, vocational training and employment.

“The Ascend program is part of Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress, a global job skills-building initiative that addresses the persistent issue of youth unemployment. Access to education, vocational training and employment are all the more a concern for youth with disabilities, who face both physical and financial barriers to access university education and employment. I am confident that our partnership with EDF will engage even more youth into the disability movement while improving the capacity of local disabled people organizations to serve their members”, said Munir Nanji, Central Europe Head at Citi.

“The active involvement of young people with disabilities is key to ensuring the disability movement reflects the needs and hopes of all persons with disabilities”, said Yannis Vardakastanis, EDF President. “In a time of instability, pandemics and emerging technologies, it is more important than ever to continue building on what we have achieved to date with this project. The important support from Citi Foundation, for which we are very grateful, will help us ensure that the voices of young people with disabilities are reflected in the work we do, leading the way towards a more inclusive future.”

In 2022, in the first phase of the program, more than 700 people received trainings on disability rights. 82% of the people reached were living with a form of disability, and 55% of participants were young people with disabilities. 54% were women. With projects customized for local requirements, the initiative outperformed its expected deliverables on building the disability rights movement among young people with disabilities in each country.

Dozen program participants took part in empowerment trainings on themes such as independent living, human rights policy, and advocacy in the European Union. Within the framework of the project, Romania conducted an in-depth national research project interviewing over 200 young people with disabilities. Slovakia took the opportunity to successfully rebrand NROZP, whilst the Czech Republic focused on teaching sign language to the friends and families of people who are deaf or hard of hearing. In Bulgaria trainings on policy were a focus for human rights defenders in the country, as was a new website that is accessible to persons with disabilities. In Hungary, interactive and in-depth trainings on policy, programming and other theoretical frameworks were the highlight. A dozen young people also visited Brussels to participate in a multi-day conference on youth and human rights in Europe.

EDF is implementing the project in partnership with five national organizations which benefit equally from the grant to support the goals of the program at the local level:

1. Bulgaria: National Council of People with Disabilities in Bulgaria (NCDPB), or Националния съвет на хората с увреждания в България (НСХУБ).
2. Czech Republic: National Council of Persons with Disabilities of the Czech Republic, or Národní rada osob se zdravotním postižením ČR (NRZP ČR)
3. Hungary: Hungarian Association for Persons with Intellectual Disability (ÉFOÉSZ)
4. Romania: Romanian National Disability Council (CNDR), or Consiliul National al Dizabilitatii din Romania.
5. Slovakia: Slovak Disability Council (NROZP, or Národná rada občanov so zdravotným postihnutím v SR)