We are soon closing the year 2016, a year filled with changes, new issues and hard work. All major changes started already in autumn 2015 when the government of Finland decided to cut development aid funding drastically. The cut hit Abilis, among other NGOs and development aid agencies. The news was shocking, even though everybody knew the financial constraints of Finland and unfavourable attitudes towards development aid. Unprepared for such cuts, the NGO’s, Abilis included, realizing just how dependent they had been on government support, now found their very existence threatened and their future in the balance.
After the shock, the Abilis team took action. Plans were made on how to save money and run activities with less financial resources. Models and strategies were prepared for phasing out from several countries. Less project funding decisions were made with less human resources. The situation further emphasized the urgency to find new donors and funding sources to secure the genuine Abilis work. Search for ideas to generate own income was launched and measures were taken to renew the website and other publications. Active use of the Social Media was underlined. Planning for the future was started with a critical evaluation regarding present working methods in order to obtain better results in projects and all activities of Abilis Foundation.
Signs of renewed faith in the future have been visible during the past months. Many cooperation partners have shown interest in a tighter collaboration. Abilis has found new contacts and partners, too. Shared interests provide possibilities of collaborating and aiming at tangible and sustainable changes in societies and attitudes towards disability, but particularly in the lives of persons with disabilities. The unique Abilis approach, which Abilis has been implementing since its establishment in 1998, to support Disabled People’s Organizations in their work to actively improve their own societies, has been found interesting. Some agencies are interested in buying the expertise of Abilis to build their own capacity. The wide network and the work of the Disability Movement is something special that not so many have. Based on these great lessons, we should be proud of Abilis and its network – Abilis makes many things possible today and is intent on doing that also in the future to ensure that the voice of persons with disabilities can be heard and the general attitude changed to a more inclusive one.
There have been many committed actors in this heavy work, the Board members, office staff, representatives and partners of Abilis in the named focus countries, to mention a few. Each and everyone has done their very best, carrying out their tasks in a professional way and closing ranks in face of the crisis.
Friends, you all and your efforts are highly needed in the future. Abilis needs expertise, commitment, the power of working together. Abilis needs new donors and a wide funding foundation to secure the financial resources for project funding in developing countries. Let us continue working together – together, we are more!
On behalf of Abilis Foundation,
Have a Wonderful Christmas and a Successful Year 2017!
Marjo Heinonen, Executive Director