Nuria Rivas Zarazaga

Name Surname: Nuria Rivas Zarazaga

Country: Spain

City: Zaragoza

Nationally: Spanish


Sector: Third Sector

Position: Founding Partner and President

Company: Asociación de Personas con Amputaciones y/o Agenesias de Aragón (ADAMPI-Aragón)

I could say that my life had one before and one after with the diagnosis of bone cancer in 2000. Until then, my day to day passed in a normal and relatively happy way. My curiosity allowed me to do many things until that moment and also some headaches... some of them were typical of the age; others were created by my mind that sometimes does not stop asking and considering things.

I had finished the career of Occupational Therapy (a beautiful career) and I was ready to start Special Education Teaching. That was the year in which I validated my studies with my first 'serious' work. Until then, I had no experience in the real world of work because I had only experience as an instructor and coach of basketball or as language teacher in tutorials.

I love Basketball; I felt an authentic passion for that sport. It allowed me to develop some of physical abilities and defined me on many levels. It's a sport that allowed me to socialize and meet many wonderful people and also meet, on a summer campus, the person who some years later will become my partner and husband. I never became an elite athlete, I only touched that feeling on rare occasions, but my commitment to this sport and my love for it was the same than a professional athlete.

Basketball was the resignation harder to assume when the doctor confirmed that, suddenly and without hardly realizing it, I had to say goodbye to my passion. It was a moment in which nothing mattered anymore and the future without basketball made life something very black.

After years of struggle with cancer and subsequent infection, we decided to amputate the leg to be able to leave those years of hospital and the different risks that could still exist in my depleted limb.

Between intervention and intervention, I prepared some exams for being Sociocultural Auxiliary Technician in the City Council of Zaragoza; nowadays, that is the work I am doing in the last ten years. During the public examination, we set a date for the intervention. I went all out on several 'fronts'. As I said goodbye to my leg, I closed an important door of my life, but I worked to open more than one window that allow me to continue to admire the sunlight. A sunlight that never stopped being there.

At that moment I also decided, along with other amputees, to create an entity that helps open windows and become a light at the end of the tunnel for all those people who should live a similar process.

Everything started when I experienced all the positive things that came from meeting amputees. After those meetings I decided to try to bring that feeling, resources and support to the people of my Region who were living something similar.

I had several motivations:

The main one is to try to convey the same change that I felt when I met more amputees before my intervention. Changing the idea, I had of what my life was going to be and, adapting it to a reality that these people showed me. This knowledge allowed me to approach the process in a more positive and realistic way. I realize that I had imagined some things much worse than what they were really afterwards.

Another question that inspired me was to discover the unjust situation that people with amputations endure, especially those who have suffered the amputation as a result of a common disease. The fact of not having hardly any support, that we had not a multidisciplinary team, very necessary, when we start with the process of amputation. We also had a problem because the orthoprosthetic catalogue offered by public health in Spain does not offer the latest innovations. This situation causes that your quality of life depends exclusively on your economic capacity. I rebelled against these situations and I decided not to complain and move to action. It is unfair, yes, but people have to know it and we, as a collective, also have to move. Things do not change alone.

If I have to talk about the opportunities and threats that I have encountered along the way, I could do the following enumeration:

Opportunities: The wonderful people I meet along the way and the synergies that I created with these people; The projects that thrill you and make you feel that it is possible to change the world; The feeling, when you look back, that some things have changed and that you have been able to contribute to this possible improvement, even if it is small; The desire to continue learning; The ability to feel that it is always in your hand what you want to do and how to do it; The fact that things cannot change if you are only protesting, to change things you need to have an attitude, be a proactive person; The nice feeling when you realize that a person leads the process better because he or she had your support, information...

Threats: Sometimes, disappointment and desire to give up when things do not go as expected or do not receive the support you consider necessary; It is difficult to distinguish when the expected results do not arrive, if it is because you are not doing well or if it is because it is a matter of time and those expected results will arrive. Sometimes it is not very clear for me if I have to be critical with my way of doing things or if I must continue trusting in me, because maybe it's just that: a matter of time; Taking some negatives answers as something personal (I'm learning not to do it); To assume too many projects, ideas and commitments because they excite you, but they take you away from your main objective; Not knowing how to pass on people the importance of the project and the importance of their contribute in social issues… Everything adds up and everything is important; Sometimes I feel an excessive fear of risk and failure. Understand that each person lives their process in a personal way and that it is not necessary that this way coincides with yours.

I keep working to be better trained each day in professional skills (both for my work and for the association) and, in personal skills, which allow me to become my best version and, therefore, to create a good environment of work. I feel that I am always learning and that, therefore, everyone can teach me something. That allows me to be with a humble attitude towards anyone, and therefore I always try to develop an active listening.

I think that, most of the time, I try to find the solution. In front of any problem, it is necessary to vent a little, but not to get stuck there. From that moment, you have to try to get out of the loop and think: 'Well, I already know the problem ... now, let's go for the solutions, because surely there are'. To assume that there are no solutions or that we don’t like the solution we found, it is also a solution!!

Although it is good to anticipate certain problems, I believe that attitude should not be the guide for our action. One thing is to prevent or not overlook important issues, and a different thing is to focus only in the problem and see everything from that perspective.

I have increased my degree of flexibility in front of the different points of view and, although I still have a lot to do, I appreciate and value the change.

As I said before, I think it's important not to lose your goal; to focus your work within the project and your attitude according to your objective. It is not the same if you think, 'I'm going to listen to everyone who comes to the Association' or if you think, 'I’m very busy and this person is coming to bother' when maybe one of your goals and responsibilities is precisely that: to welcome people.

I also give great importance to not giving up and thinking that everything has a solution.

I like to create a motivated work team and make things as easy and comfortable as possible; I believe that to generate a good environment often allow us reaching goals that seemed immeasurable.

In my case I do not think about my disability at all, I like to listen to my heart. In the case of the Association, I take it into account because I feel it is unfair that our needs are not met as a collective. But to carry out projects, or to do things, or to undertake any initiative, the disability does not usually enter in my thoughts.

In relation to the above, I would tell other women with disabilities to focus their projects from the illusion, from the heart and from the passion. If then the disability influences or must be taken into account (sometimes it is necessary for practical reasons, but not always), then you will have to think about it, but not before.

If the disability happens unexpectedly, for me it has been useful to elaborate the grief of what I cannot do as before. Once the farewell is done, I have focused on the new illusions that have appeared and I have not compared them at all with the past or with, 'what could have been if...'I try not to 'use' my disability. This is a subtle issue, delicate and difficult to explain, but I think that disability should not be 'used' in some ways.

I would recommend a lot of training, at many levels. Sometimes, they should try to leave their comfort zone. Surely they will be surprised.

I also think that they should try to create good teams, where people feel comfortable and work at ease. Worry about our people; they should feel that we are there too. The flexibility, honesty and humility I think should be in our DNA and in everything we do and transmit. Recognize our mistakes when they occur and know how to apologize for them. That behavior generates more confidence and a better atmosphere.

It is also important to know all the resources that you can find in your city or region. Resources related to your field; resources that can facilitate things, that can provide training and information. Those resources can serve as a platform when claiming issues or can allow optimizing resources when only with your project you do not arrive, offering services compatible with yours. You can generate synergies and exchanges...

When things do not go as well as I expected, it helps me to think that few things go well the first time; You do not have to give up for that reason. There is a sentence that says something like: 'If at the end something does not come out well, it's because that was predestined in that way'. It also helps me to think that there are other entities, bigger than ours that would not arrive so high in two days and probably, they not gave up when things did not go as they expected. It is in those moments of more frustration when you have to put one’s back into it. That approach will make the difference between entities that only try and those that also get it.

I love the anonymous people who do a lot of things everyday and nobody recognizes it. Every day I see multiple samples of people who are there, giving the best of themselves to try to change things. Simple persons, who, without bragging, perform great works, great projects... Always without fainting and without feeling that anybody owes them anything, with illusion. Any person, in any field, who works with honesty and enthusiasm, fills my heart with joy and makes me feel excited for each new day. Those people who change small great things are the ones that really move me and motivate me to move forward.

I do not know so much about Inclusive Entrepreneurship with that specific terminology. Perhaps I would say that we should provide tools and ways in order to facilitate that people can undertake a project in the simplest and most practical way. Disability cannot be a reason to discourage anyone. Doing all those resources accessible to everyone, we make Inclusive Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship for everyone; including any type of collective that can be discriminated or have some type of difficult, not only for people with disability.

I think there are still some weaknesses to be overcome, such as the thinking that if you have a disability there are things that there are not related with us. To think that our disability will make us less efficiency in a work process. Or to believe that our disability can suppose a bigger number of sick leave than people without disability.