How Campaign Bootcamp Germany changed my life completely

Cinderella Glücklich is a disability rights activist and journalism student in Germany. She took part in the first Bootcamp Germany and spoke to Casper ter Kuile about her experience of Bootcamp and what it has meant for her.

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Cinderella during a photo shoot for the German campaign “Kein Widerspruch“, profiling successful people with disabilities.

What were you up to before Bootcamp?

Before attending Bootcamp Germany, I had not been active in politics at all. I thought I would not be able to change anything meaningful in this big field anyway, so whenever I could, I avoided politics. When it comes to political activism, I had that stereotypical picture of shouting, annoying young people in my mind, who suddenly jump towards me as I walk through the street, trying to get me to put my signature under a petition for god-knows-what. 

What motivated you to become active on social justice issues?

I was an intern at a major corporation and wondered why on the one hand they cared so much about the inclusion of employees with disabilities but on the other hand did not have the right equipment or facilities, such as. disabled-friendly toilets. I was focused on this aspect because I was born with cerebral palsy and, during the internship at the corporation, worked at a department where I could not use the provided toilets with my wheelchair. I am confronted with “the toilet problem“ almost every day in my life as a wheelchair user, so I normally do not spend much time on being annoyed by it but instead try to find an alternative quickly. This time, things were different, though. My internship lasted over two months, and I was already exhausted and annoyed by the given conditions on day two. 

As I contacted the disability manager of the corporation, he admitted that he had not even noticed the problem so far. About half an hour later he had talked to the facility management coordinator, trying to find out why there was no wheelchair accessible toilet on this one floor only. The answer he got was the following: When construction work for the building had been in progress, the person responsible decided that there was not enough money left to build another wheelchair-accessible toilet, so they just cut it out from the construction plan. It’s interesting how people, no matter if disabled or non-disabled, run away from problems which seem not to affect them directly.

Over the months, I convinced my team about the issue and we ended up filming a video to explain how people with disabilities experience looking for work.

What was your experience of Bootcamp?

Campaign Bootcamp was extremely hard. It was so exhausting that I fell asleep during the sessions on a regular basis. My health problems, which have been torturing me for almost 14 years, got worse. They even increased to a point of no return. Only a few days after the first Campaign Bootcamp Germany had come to an end, I collapsed. Game over. 

Well, that is what I thought during the first days at hospital. Luckily, I sometimes had internet access on my smartphone while I was lying there in my sickbed (Only when the wind outside was blowing in a certain direction!). This way, I could follow the post-bootcamp activities of all the awesome fellows I had met during the Campaign Bootcamp Germany. Meeting all these people, the camp organisers, the trainers, and the participants, was a very special experience. We did not know each other at all. We all had very individual, distinctive personalities. We all had different lifestyles. We all had different backgrounds. We all came from different NGOs (or had almost no campaigning experience) and therefore, we all had different goals. Although, it was not the differences that stood out as soon as the Bootcamp had started. It was the feeling of unity that we all felt as soon as we sat together. Everyone met each other with respect, an open mind, and an open heart, no matter their thoughts, appearance or behaviour. Together, we supported each other during the sessions. We shared our stories from the past as well as our visions for the future. In the end, we all headed home to different destinations spread all over Germany, Austria and Switzerland. But one thing stayed with each of us until today: The Bootcamp Spirit.

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Cinderella recovering with a Bootcamp flower delivery

What’s life after Bootcamp like now?

It is this feeling that lets me check the Bootcamp Germany 2014 Facebook group at least once a day. It is this unexpected thought inside my head during the day, wondering what participant XY might be doing at this very moment. Or a member of the organisation team. Or one of the trainers. All in all, it is what keeps me going, what gives me the strength to get up each and every morning, and continue living my life just the way I want to, finally.

I have never felt so good before in my life, and my health is steadily getting better. Finally, I have met medical specialists who found out the reason for my constant health problems over the past 14 years. Better late than never, I tell you! As a result, I can now deal with the issues that still appear from time to time because now I really know where they come from and what to do about them. The best of it all is: I have had constant pain all over my body for the past 14 years, and now it is all GONE. I can move freely in my wheelchair, I can go out and have fun, travel, study and also work like everyone else does. Call me crazy but I believe this is how it feels to be reborn. It is simply amazing!