The invisible disability

Can you imagine a 3-4 year old boy lying on the pavement and kicking his legs in the air because he doesn’t want to cross at the traffic lights? What would you think? What might you say or even do? Well, stop and reflect for a moment, because probably what you are seeing as a tantrum or an unruly child has more to do with a disability.
There are millions of people in the world who live with invisible disabilities. We tend to associate disability with something that requires a wheelchair or crutches but many disabilities are not so easily recognisable.
In our Communication Project we talk about some of the less visible disabilities such as autism, hearing problems, mental disorders, multiple sclerosis or also called a thousand faces disease because it can affect people very differently. Not being able to identify them in an obvious way can make us fall into greater social and employment discrimination.
We have received thousands of responses to our latest project on Caring at Home for those with extra needs. We are happy, overwhelmed and very grateful for your help in the dissemination of this topic. But we would like to go further, and encourage people to take their time reading it and to empathize with the true life stories that it contains … In other words, for people to be aware of how important these people are to society and how sometimes we can make judgments through a lack of understanding.
I received this photo through our Instagram profile. A person with one of those invisible disabilities posted it in an act of protest. How many times do we complain because someone ignores us when we request something … can you imagine what it must be like to feel that society as a whole isn’t responding to you, but instead judging you?
This project will hopefully serve as an eye opener and help us to be more understanding by drawing attention to the fact that disability is not a problem but a different way of being and living in this world, which demands acceptance, respect, and caring attitude. At HRF we acknowledge that this must all begin and be cultivated in the home.

Taking the hard road

‘It’s part of life to have obstacles. It’s about overcoming obstacles; that’s the key to happiness.’ (US jazz pianist Herbie Hancock)

Life is a great gift, it’s true. But that does not mean it’s devoid of difficulties and obstacles which can complicate our day.  What’s more, I would say that life is wonderful, thanks to those obstacles and difficulties and barriers that can block our way.

Those challenges we face are what make us grow and improve ourselves and help us know ourselves better. It is through adversity that a person’s true potential is discovered and what we are capable of achieving.

None of this is new, but sometimes we forget. In fact, today’s society tries to avoid any kind of pain or suffering by preventing young people from understanding that this is also part of life. Children can be so overprotected that they are deprived of the tools with which to overcome small obstacles when they are young, leaving them helpless and vulnerable when faced with difficult problems when they are older.

And thanks to each and every one of the testimonies that make up our last Communication Project ‘Caring at Home for those with extra needs’ we have been able to discover how people with disabilities wake up every day aware of their weakness – but that knowledge, that awareness of what one is and what one has, makes them strong, turning their disability into an opportunity.

Learning about the day-to-day lives of people such as Horacio, Adriana, Kara, Sader, Miguel Ángel, Monica and Annick has been an inspiration to us all. I truly believe that the siblings of these children and their families grow stronger and are better prepared for life because they witness in their homes their joy, courage and determination to overcome any obstacles that stand in their way.

The different challenges we all face make our lives very worthwhile. And as Dr. Max says in the Netflix series ‘New Amsterdam’, “Sometimes it is convenient to take the harder road, because it will allow you to have better views.”

Caring at Home for those with extra needs

A few months ago we received a request: Why not show the world that homes, where people live with disabilities, are happy homes? Why not make visible the difficulties that these families live through and the courage with which they face them? Why not praise this example at a time when society becomes blocked and frustrated at the slightest obstacle?

And we said: “Yes.”

At Home Renaissance Foundation we have talked many times about the importance of home care. But we present a new perspective – that if in itself care is vital in the development of the person, then it is even more so with those facing difficulties.

We present you with our latest Communication Project: Caring at Home for those with extra needs

We are proud of what we have achieved. It has not been easy because these people are so humble that the last thing they want is to be the protagonists of anything. But they deserve it. Them, their families, their environments. For their attitude, for their courage, for their way of looking at life, for their determination, their effort and their example. Because there is nothing impossible for them and they are a constant lesson in self-improvement.

Thanks for agreeing to participate in this project. Society needs you more than ever.
We would be very grateful if you would share this document. Let others enjoy reading it too.

With what motivation do we act at home?

As we have already explained previously, our latest book talks about the People who live in a home, the Care they require and provide and the Work involved in the correct management of our homes.

It is a book that was born as a result of the Conference on Wellbeing that was held in 2017 and that sought to delve into what are the sources of wellbeing for the person. Without a doubt, one of those sources and in turn, the main stage of our life is the home, since it is the place where the person is born and takes his first steps as a social being, marking his life forever.

According to Professor Argandoña, author of one of the chapters dealing with Work, the home is an institution with multiple purposes. The home is reproduction, food, learning, socialization, producer of goods and services, care of children, the sick and the elderly, provider of physical and ontological security. But also home is a hotel, restaurant, school, hospital, a place of entertainment, a school of virtues…

In other words, the home has many functions, although the main one would be “learning to live by assuming different tasks.” Household members, regardless of their age, must be willing to carry out different jobs while living together because the proper functioning of the “institution” will depend on that relationship that is established between them and on that common effort.

To understand work at home, you have to know the 3 types of results that derive from our actions and that are specified as extrinsic, intrinsic and transcendent. That is, what we hope to receive: the food on the plate each day; what we hope to achieve: learning to share, or learning to cook, or the satisfaction of a pleasant home; and what we hope to give: considering, taking into account the needs of others.

But it is important to understand that in the home there is no intention to compare because the home is not a market in which we continuously compare what we give and what we receive. In many cases, there is no direct reciprocity, nor possible forms of compensation. The only possible measure of this distribution is love.

Love is the most intense way to share. Love is, par excellence, the main virtue in the home” says Argandoña. Benevolent love is demonstrated when the person acts with a transcendent motivation, that is, when he only takes into account the needs of the other and seeks his good, not his own benefit. That is why Professor Argandoña says: “the home is a privileged place for the exercise of care. It is the temple of the civilization of care.”

How many times do we act like this in our homes?

People, Care and Work in the Home

We are delighted to announce the worldwide launch of our latest book ‘People, Care and Work in the Home’. This was published in 2020 by Routledge and we have gathered together the editors and some of the authors such as Lord Best and Baroness Hollins to present its launch online. In collaboration with Nottingham Trent University, the launch will be held next Thursday, January 21 at 12.00 pm (Uk).

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Here you have the review that Professor Rosa Lastra wrote about the book.

Covid-19 has brought back the home to the centre of our society. Home has become a place to work, to teach, to study. Home is that safe space at the intersection of our work and family/personal life. The Pandemic forced billions of individuals and families to stay at home for several months in 2020. The neat divide between home and office has been eroded. The time is thus ripe for an in-depth analysis of what the home means for us all, from cradle to grave, and how it permeates every aspect of our lives. It is in this context that a new book  People, Care and Work in the Home, edited by Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem and Antonio Argandoña is such a welcome and timely addition to the literature on the subject. Though it was written long before the spread of the Coronavirus, its findings are of critical importance. Home now emerges yet again as the safe haven in a fast-changing world.

The collected volume brings together seventeen contributions from outstanding scholars, researchers, and practitioners from different disciplines and professional backgrounds, offering a multi-disciplinary analysis of the challenges contemporary homes face, focusing on the care and wellbeing of people in the domestic sphere. The book, which includes case studies from the UK, Continental Europe, South America, and South East Asia, presents a novel approach to the study of the home, at a time in which homes are becoming the focal locus for care and wellbeing. The chairman of the Home Renaissance Foundation, Bryan K. Sanderson CBE, writes in the foreword to the book that the opportunity to draw attention to the role the home plays in lifelong health and wellbeing is one of great significance to the work of the Home Renaissance Foundation (HRF) since its mission is to renew the culture and to restore the value of the home for everyone.

The editors note in their introductory chapter, while books on home relations and environments are typically defined by specific discipline or research areas, such as psychology, sociology, geography, ethnology, and others, this book engages a multitude of research domains based on shared enquiries on the home as a place of care, of people, and of work. The book adopts a broad conception of the home, including people (the family), place (the housing), environment (neighbourhood, city, town), and society, considering its multifaceted dimensions: anthropological, ethical, economic, political, social, psychological, and spatial. It evaluates and interrogate different impacts on people (knowledge, skills, values, virtues, etc.) and environments (family, business, social entities, public bodies, etc.) looking also at public policy and legislative solutions.

The book is divided into three parts (home and people, home and work, home and care) and addresses the changing demographics and changing needs of our modern society and their impact upon the dynamics and relationships within the home from being personal and private to encompassing domestic work, care for older people, or supporting people with special needs. Whilst the home is a concept universally experienced, permeating every aspect of our lives, it remains an entity whose influence on health and wellbeing is poorly understood.

The book caters for people of all needs and backgrounds. Sheila the Baroness Hollins, crossbench life peer in the House of Lords, and emeritus professor of psychiatry of disability at St. George’s University of London, in a chapter entitled “Aspirations of people with intellectual disability for an ordinary home and an ordinary life” tries to unpick some basic aspects of home and what it might mean to people who may have few choices about where they live and who they live with. She speaks of the work of the international development charity Hope and Homes, which quite simply aims to close down orphanages worldwide and instead support local communities to find substitute family homes for abandoned and orphaned children. This is the type of initiative that Home Renaissance Foundation strongly endorses.

Lord Best – who co-chairs the APPG on Housing and Care for Older People, including its recent inquiry, “Rural Housing for an Ageing Population: Preserving Independence” (R-HAPPI) and who has piloted four Private Members Bills on housing successfully through the House of Lords, most recently the “Homelessness Reduction Act 2017” – proposes key steps to provide adequate homes for an ageing society, considering the needs of space and light, warmth, accessibility, and manageability and invites us all to act as citizens, as voters and as consumers to persuade the government to give as much priority to their housing policies for older people as for younger people. As social animals we need contact with others. He writes: “Tailor-made new housing for our later years brings opportunities to do things with neighbours, whether in the all-singing, all-dancing context of full-blown retirement communities, or the more intimate settings of small retirement developments.” And this is not just to create a more humane environment. “At a time when local authority care budgets are in crisis and the NHS is desperately short of funds – and hospital beds – the importance of adequate housing for senior citizens makes sense at every level.”

José Victor Orón Semper talking about UpToYou focuses on the early years of life, emphasizing how childhood lays the foundations for future life. Everything we learn indeed starts at home, he reminds us. The dispositions acquired in the early years towards oneself last throughout life. Thus, it is more important to educate about the dispositions than specific behaviours. For example, developing the initiative to move one object is far more important than putting the object in the right place.

Sir Harry BurnsAccording to Professor Sir Harry Burns: “From the outside, a home is simply a building. It’s inside that the magic happens. If a home is a place where children feel safe and happy, they will learn they are loved and respected and, as a result, they are likely to grow up to love and respect others. They will grow in health and wellbeing and develop a sense of purpose, allowing them to make decisions as to the future direction of their lives.” And that is why it is imperative to devise public policies that support disadvantaged families in delivering a safe environment for their children with positive parenting anchored in the home as a nurturing place.

Save 2020

For months I have been seeing posts from people complaining that they want 2020 to end soon. December 31 will probably be a much-heralded day, slamming shut the door to this painful year, but it is merely symbolic as the virus is still with us and 2021 will not be the panacea for all our ills. So I propose we don’t rush through this month but pass through it calmly like someone enjoying their last mouthful of chocolate.

Let’s savour this difficult 2020 by living December with great zest, with great awareness, so that we can look back without allowing the year to slip through our fingers. Let’s not start the calendar month with regret, sadness, reluctance, but appreciate that each day has 24 hours – just as someone reaching the end of their life doesn’t want each day to pass away. The sort of days that a grandfather with his grandchildren wants to be eternal, that people in love do not seek to end.
Let’s get excited again and tell 2020 that it is not over yet, that December is ahead and that we want to live it, we want to take advantage of it, we want to learn from what we have been through, without forgetting that we must continue to act responsibly.

As suggested by Professor Maria Pia Chirinos in her conference presentationHappy Home, Happy Society?let’s focus on care. Let’s take care of ourselves more than ever. Let’s be kinder, more sincere, more empathetic. Let’s put the complaining aside and replace it with a wish list and all the things we are looking forward to. December is the month of Christmas, of Santa Claus, of Papa Noel, of Saint Nicolas, of the Birth of Jesus. Let that hope overwhelm us, let’s go back to being children, let’s look at everything with open eyes. Let’s be super tolerant with our neighbour, the boss, our friend.

And let us accept once and for all, if we have not done so yet, that we are vulnerable, fragile and that we have come into the world with a purpose… Have you found yours? Maybe 2020 could achieve that end, that you find it, that you look inward, that the outside is already well seen. That you stop for a second and value what you have, that you feel lucky no matter how small and insignificant you think you are and that you let yourself be loved and wanted. That you let yourself be taken care of and you take care of yourself. That others need you. Yes, to you. Stop going on the subway with headphones as if the world was not with you, stop walking down the street with your head down as if you were not from this planet… be attentive to the needs of your father, your mother, your brother, your sister. Because Covid has brought us a new problem, but the old ones are still there and the solution is in you. And who knows if it is not in this month of December.

So don’t waste it, let’s save 2020.

Let’s put theory into practice

A few days ago, we had the honour of being the invited Foundation to the meetings of the Argentine association MIF, Mujeres Independientes y Federales. The pandemic has normalised these virtual meetings and technology allowed us to discuss current fundamental issues concerning the home.

From Home Renaissance Foundation we want to thank María Elena Critto and Carolina Castiglioni who have concentrated on making our work known and, above all, brought together such a select audience to talk about the importance of care and the role of women. Among the more than 70 women who attended this event were Carlota Pitiot, a union leader from Apoc, the former Argentine senator, Cristina Fiore, and the national member of Parliament Victoria Morales Gorleri. It was precisely the latter who shared her personal and enriching experience that I dare to summarize as follows:

We women love to talk about how things should be, know the numbers and educate our children in joint responsibility, but it is so hard for us to delegate that we do not always put that theory into practice.

She explained that, in the middle of the pandemic, teleworking and with all her 6 children at home, she was overwhelmed by the pressure of not being able to get everything done. At one point, she sat down with her family and asked for their help. It was her husband and her children who told her:

“Mum, you always talk to us about dividing the household tasks, sharing the responsibilities all together, feeling part of the home, but we are not putting it into practice. Of course, we want to help and we will do the housework together.”

From that day on, the load on her shoulders became lighter. She understood that indeed the time had come for that ideal to reach fruition.

But it is not necessary to be drowned in work before asking for help because we would be missing the point of co-responsibility. It does not consist of doing what the mother or organiser of the home does not attain but in dividing the work fairly among all the members of the home and experiencing first-hand what it means when a sole person does not take on all the responsibility of the home.

Because if there is one place you can fail, it’s in the home. It is at home where things can be corrected with affection, where you can be reminded of your responsibilities, where you learn to be part of something, to be important in your role. As Charles Handy explains in the HomeMakers Project, “At home, skills and abilities that are much needed for professional life are acquired.”

No one is indispensable but by working as a team you are a very necessary link for the rest of the project to go full steam ahead.

People, Care and Work in the Home

It would be hard to find a more important time for the publication of People, Care and Work in the Home. These last months have brought to the forefront of all our lives the importance of the home and the people, work and care that happens within them.

The book, published this week with Routledge, brings together academic and professional expertise in these fields, first gathered at the 2017 4th International HRF Conference: “A Home, a place of growth, care and wellbeing.”

What was clear at the conference was that these vital things – growth and wellbeing  – do not just “happen.” For strong, healthy individuals, families and communities there needs to be attention paid and support given to the frontline of where these patterns begin – at home.

Professor Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem and Professor Antonio Argandoña, editors of People, Care and Work in the Home have worked with contributors to bring to wider attention this multidisciplinary approach to society’s key building blocks.

Sir Harry Burns, professor of Global Public Health at the University of Strathclyde, and former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, underlines the importance of home for life-long health and healthy relationships in his contribution to the publication:

Sir Harry Burns“From the outside, a home is simply a building. It’s inside that the magic happens. If a home is a place where children feel safe and happy, they will learn they are loved and respected and, as a result, they are likely to grow up to love and respect others. They will grow in health and wellbeing and develop a sense of purpose, allowing them to make decisions as to the future direction of their lives. Children who experience a nurturing, safe upbringing are likely, as adults, to create a positive home environment for their own children and so, positive outcomes for families are handed on to the next generation.”

If those early experiences are not positive the results are less happy, less healthy for individuals and for society – examples of which are not hard to find.

This recent pandemic, the lockdown and enforced time at home together has given new energy to those determined to champion the unique and priceless role it plays in our lives. In the words of Professor Argandoña:

“The home grows with solidarity, sharing everything. And the most complete way of sharing is love, that is, to take care of others. That is what we learn at home throughout our lives, although in a different way at each stage of that life. In this period of confinement we have learned to live together, ignoring the deficiencies of others; to share, that is, to give and give ourselves.”

People, Care and Work in the Home is a very important articulation of that insight to inform both research and policy in how we value what is given and what is received at home.

We have won!

MovementforGoodAward: HRF has won!!! 13,695 foundations were nominated for awards and more than 250,000 people voted! We are one of the 500 foundations receiving it!!! THANK YOU for your support and thanks Ecclesiastical for organising the Awards.

You made this possible. We requested via email and social media networks that you voted for our think tank, which for the past 14 years has made enormous efforts to make visible the critical work of the running of the home.

Each award, according to Mark Hews, Group Chief Executive at Ecclesiastical, will make a positive difference. In our case, the funding will allow us to continue promoting the Communication Report on “Home in the time of Coronavirus” by translating it into different languages. At the Home Renaissance Foundation, we know that every little push counts because small projects lead to great achievements, such as our latest publication People, Care and Work in the Home that will be published next Tuesday, June 16.

Much effort has gone into the production of the book spanning several years following the Conference held on the subject in 2017, which brought together prestigious academics and professionals from the Public Health and Care sector. During that gathering, workshops were also organised in which researchers from different fields were able to share their findings from the perspective of the home.

Edited by Professor Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem in conjunction with Professor Emeritus Antonio Argandoña, and published by the prestigious Routledge, the book contains 17 fascinating contributions with insights into the care of the home and its members in various different ways throughout the world.

Covering three broad elements, as its title indicates, it begins by paying attention to caring for the person as the centre of our homes and, above all, delving into the critical care of the elderly, focusing on homes that provide for the needs of people with disabilities; and ends by highlighting the importance of the work that all this entails, analysing individual cases across the continents.

Without a doubt, as you can see, your support is crucial in giving back to the home the place it deserves, both socially and in public policy decision-making.

Home Truths

It is very early days to try to predict the long-term effects the coronavirus will have on our relationships with our homes. During this crisis, they have been seen as places of safety and security. For many of us, this has definitely been true as we have drawn strength from the solace and sanctuary of our homes and closest relationships.
It has not been the case for everyone though. A time of enforced lockdown in difficult physical or emotional circumstances has taken its toll on physical and mental health. Evidence-based investigation of what has really been happening in our homes is also at a very early stage, but anecdotal evidence suggests a number of factors that affect our experience of lockdown. This article looks at the positive aspects of these factors while recognising the very real implications of the negative ones.

Feeling in control
In a situation where there are so much fear and contradictory information in the wider world, keeping a sense of control in the small areas of domestic life is known to be beneficial. This sense of control or being able to order at least one part of our lives is seen in the increased order we are putting into our daily lives. This might be a more structured day, with regular work, meal and leisure times. It might be tidying and rearranging our home environment for optimal space and calm. It could be something as simple as planning the meals for the week, or sharing out domestic tasks. The key is that an order and a plan bring a sense of control at home that can strengthen us to deal with the things beyond our control. This is especially important in homes with young children or vulnerable family members. Predictable daily patterns are a source of great reassurance in such unpredictable times.

Respectful Relationships
There is no rule that we have to like everyone we live with, but when there is no getting away from them a modus vivendi is less a choice than a necessity. Respectful relationships recognise that people need different things and express themselves in different ways. That we can offend as much as we are offended. That we can praise as much as we need praise. The old adage “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing,” might have led to some quiet homes some days, but on the whole when no one can leave the house to cool off, this has not been the best time for “warts and all” candour.

Nature Cure
One of the telling distinctions of this crisis has been between those who have access to private outdoor space and those who do not. Again, anecdotally, there has been much in the press and elsewhere about the value of green spaces to our well-being. Those with gardens, backyards and balconies have had a social advantage at this time over those without. One of the harshest restrictions, after not being able to be with relatives, was the limit of time and activities outdoors. The ability to bring nature into the home has also been limited by the restrictions, but those who have shared this lockdown with pets have spoken of the very positive benefits of this over and above the difficulties. Similarly, even without a garden, schools have encouraged parents of children learning at home to grow plants from seeds, just using a window-ledge for small pots. These may seem tiny actions but the positive effect of tending and sharing space with the natural world bring far larger rewards.
The exercise of order, respect and care – for ourselves, those we live with and our environment – are human choices and disciplines which are largely independent of our personal circumstances. Those already suffering from the effects of poor housing, financial insecurity, ill-health, broken relationships, violence or addiction will have found this period harder to manage.

The next article in this series will look at some lessons for policy-makers from the places we all need to call home.