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The Beginnings of Open the Windows

When I think of Open the Windows’ beginnings it seems to me like it was yesterday. Once I was asked to write something for the tenth anniversary, to evoke the story of the association’s beginnings I realized that ten years have passed. The time is passing, and the feeling is nice when you have something you can be proud of.

Тони на презентација

Everything started when I was working in the French humanitarian organization Handicap International. There I have learned a lot about disability, and I met wonderful people. We worked together with Lidija Krstevska Dojchinovska, special educator who was very interested in IT.

At the final days of Handicap International Mission on the Balkans, I had the opportunity to visit the headquarters of the organization in Lyon, France. To be honest, it did not leave me an impression, a building like any other, full of people working on computers. The second day of the visit in Lyon, my colleagues took me to the center for assistive technology ICOM, founded by the same organization that I worked in. It was an unforgettable and inspiring experience. It was a wonderful small center where persons with disabilities from all over Lyon came to be trained or assessed for assistive technology use. It was a wonderful team of enthusiasts led by Stéphanie Lucien-Brun. Thanks to her and her team I still carry the energy that I felt there.

I came back with the idea that such a center must be opened in Skopje. I told Lidija and together we talked this idea with the regional director of Handicap International, Alexandre Cote. With all the enthusiasm he told us that we are the right people for it and he offered us his support. And so the story began. A special educator and a computer scientist started a civic association.

We had the support from our already former employer. Except the financial support, from Handicap International we received an occupation therapist Sylvain Rouaud who strengthened our team and was helping us for a year to set organization‘s foundation.

The organization began its work. We scanned the needs, the experiences were growing, and the first results arrived. We were growing up, it was a wonderful time. In that period nice and good people came to us: Regina Hines, who taught us of order and gave us a basis for a stable and planned growth and contacts with donors and supporters. Dao Tran joined, a Peace Corps volunteer and gave irrefrangible contribution to the association, her New York energy and work ethic accelerating our work.

And things got going and have never stopped since, the results were elevating us, we were getting good reputation, agreements and memorandums signed with ministers and state secretaries were following. We provided funding, and people constantly were coming to get support. The organization was born and it was making its first steps. We gained credibility as professionals, and our confidence grew every day. At that time the real change and growth began, we hired Radmila, a special educator, valedictorian of her generation, she was excellent enforcement to the team, nearly after that Marga joined. We were no longer two enthusiasts, we were becoming a team, a team of professionals prepared to continue the path. At that time I knew that the team and the organization will grow.

I want to thank all the good people who gave their support and help. The efforts have paid of, Skopje got an exemplary center for assistive technology, even outside the borders of Macedonia, Skopje got a team that can handle all challenges. I got an unforgettable experience that I can be proud of.

Till the following achievements and anniversaries, when I will repeat this story over and over again until I bore you! Oh really where did 10 years go!!

Toni Bachvarovski

Engineer in Computer Science

Founder of Open the Windows