This article has been published in Enabling Education 12
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Title: REDEinclusão – Inclusion Network
Author: Benard da Costa, AM
Publisher: EENET
Date: 2008

REDEinclusão – Inclusion Network

In 1998 we interviewed Ana Maria Benard da Costa about her voluntary work to translate EENET’s newsletter into Portuguese. Now, ten years later, Ana Maria has led a project to develop an inclusive education information network for teachers, parents, students, policy-makers and NGOs in Portuguese-speaking countries. In this interview with EENET, Ana Maria explains the process, and the challenges, involved in establishing this network.

When and why did you decide to start a Portuguese language inclusive education information network?
This decision was inspired by two different sources. First a friend who had worked in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with street children proposed that we set up of an NGO called ‘Citizens of the World’ to carry out projects to promote health, education, citizenship and other human rights.

At the same time, EENET organised a meeting in Portugal to discuss its regional networking plans. I presented the idea of promoting inclusive education in Portuguese-speaking countries, and Windyz Ferreira presented a similar idea for Brazil.

These two ideas were combined, and a group of persons from different fields (health, education, social development) came together to create Citizens of the World and its project ‘Inclusion Network’, inspired by EENET.

We then tried to find funding (which took about three years), and now after six years we have finally been able to launch the network.

What did you do during those six years?
We created a working group of persons committed to inclusive education and willing to volunteer on this project. We met and discussed website ideas. We also searched for relevant documents and persons from Portuguese-speaking countries who could share information and experiences. We translated and adapted materials that we received.

Who has helped to make this project happen?
We, of course, received help from our team members (mostly teachers and teacher trainers), plus NGOs, parents and teachers who have sent us their experiences for our newsletter. EENET’s newsletter is our basic source of inspiration and EENET’s Co-ordinator has supported and advised us. The Centre for Studies in Inclusive Education, UNESCO, and the Ministry of Family and Child Development in British Columbia have also let us use their documents. The University of Aveiro helped with the production of the website and the Gulbenkian Foundation provided essential funding for our activities.

The REDEinclusão newsletter
The REDEinclusão newsletter

How did you find the people who have written articles for the newsletter?
Most of the contacts started with the persons and organisations on EENET’s mailing list. Many of these persons then sent us other contacts, and others have been suggested through our team members.

It has been a very difficult process – what motivated you even when the task seemed impossible?
It was really a very difficult and sometimes lonely process to get REDEinclusão launched, as nowadays I am retired and working from home. Team members could not meet often as they live in different parts of the country and most still have full-time jobs. Email has been my greatest communication tool, but I felt very deeply how difficult it is to work on a project like this when you are not part of a department or do not have colleagues nearby.

What motivates me to pursue this task is the belief in the importance of this communication network and the need to not disappoint all the persons who helped me along the way.

What has caused you the most stress?
The most stress has been caused by the difficulty in getting responses to my requests for people to share their inclusive education experiences. At one point, I thought that I was never going to receive any stories that could be used in the newsletter. I now realise how difficult it is for teachers to write about their own real experiences.

What has been most enjoyable so far?
The most enjoyable moments have been our team meetings where I felt supported and I could share and discuss ideas, and when I received emails expressing support for the project or sending stories for the newsletter.

See page 29 for more information about REDEinclusão, and Ana Maria’s contact details.