Cooperation between Iceland and Latvia

Visit from Ludza

Örtækni is working with Ludza society of Disabled on a project called "Work is life", which is about workshops for people with disabilities. Ludza is working on establishing such workshops and are looking to Iceland for cooperation and want to learn how we do things here in Iceland. We will also go to Latvia to learn from them.

In July 7th, people visited Iceland, which was part of the project. In their stay, they visited several workshops employed by people with disabilities, such as Örtækni, Örvi, Múlalundur, Ás and Sólheimar. In all these places they had good insight in the jobs that were done there and how the workshops operated. They were very interested in how the workplaces were financed and how we deal with authorities.

We organized a conference with delegates form Organization of Disabled in Iceland (ODI), Labour Office, The Icelandic Union of Special Employment and Training (Hlutverk), Örtækni, Múlalundur, Ás and the guests from Latvia. The Latvian's had presentations on how things are in Latvia, in that category. Þorbera from ODI told about the fight with authorities through the years. Linda and Bjarni from Labour office talked about "Supported Employment" and the contract that Labour office has with workshops for people with disabilities. We also talked about how we do thing in Iceland and what could be done in Latvia. The discussions were both good and useful. 

Trip to Latvia 

As mentioned above, Örtækni is working on a project with Ludza society of Disabled in Latvia. The project is about assisting Ludza in promoting situation of people with disabilities, especially in the work area. They want to establish workshops for people with disabilities as we do and also to encourage employers to hire people with disabilities.

Hartmann Kr. Guðmundsson, manager Örtækni technical workshop and Kristján Valdimarsson, manager Örvi and chairman of Hlutverk (Workability Iceland), went to Ludza in Latvia to participate in conference on that matter. They flew to Riga where a welcome committee picked them up and drove them to a hotel. They were taken on sightseeing tours, both in Riga and all over Latvia. There are many old churches and castles in Latvia, which is interesting to see. We thought it was interesting that there are no mountains in Latvia, but lot of trees and lakes.

They had a meeting with the Mayer of Ludza and talked about matters of people with disabilities and other things in that area. The hospitality was very good and we left with nice gifts. They also participated in a big festival to celebrate 5 year of reorganizing municipalities in the region. It was a big festival with colourful procession, market and celebration with dance and songs.

The conference was bigger than we expected. 47 people participated from all over Latvia, s.a. Ministry of social affairs, many municipalities, at least two universities, employers and many others. The first speaker talked about the situation on the labour market in Latvia and the situation with people with disabilities.  After that, Kristján talked about work situation for people with disabilities in Iceland and told about Örvi. Hartmann talked about Örtækni, how it is run, human resources and sales tactics.

After that the group was split up into two groups, which one talked about positive aspect of social entrepreneurship and the other about negative aspect of it. Then the groups introduced the results and it was discussed in a lively matter. At the end there was a conclusion that was sent to the authorities. Resolution from the conference.

A television station was at the seen for recording and interviewed Hartmann among others. They broadcasted it on the news on the national TV.

The whole trip was very successful, interesting and enjoyable. The Latvian hospitality was great and the guests were treated as royalties.

They saw a lot of the country and many places for people with disabilities and learned a lot about Latvia. They could also share of their experience in these matters in Iceland.

Project is financially supported by Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Latvia and Municipality Ludza