Experts in Valožyn have determined that the quality of people’s life depends on their awareness.
Therefore, they organized visiting consultations on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in villages of Valožyn district.
Demand is exceeding the supply
The consultation with such name took place in Rakaw on March, 22. It was told there about the provisions of the Convention, about the rights and freedoms, and mechanisms of protection of rights of persons with disabilities, set out in the Convention, as well as about the social services provided by the territorial social services centre (TSSC) in Valožyn.
On the whole, Valožyn is, perhaps, a leader in Belarus in the number of implemented projects related to solving problems of people with disabilities. One of the most ambitious of them is "Valožyn without barriers" under which a hostel for people with disabilities from all around the world is being built that will contain the tourist zone, a hostel, a conference hall, and a restaurant. Besides, there has been operating at present a 14th (!) social project for growing oyster mushrooms in the regional center. On the project’s completion, 4 people with disabilities who are currently working in it will receive remunerations.
Having such a high degree of social activity, Valožyn could not pass over the campaign "Agenda 50" launched for better understanding and application of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Belarusian regions. Local activists have won a mini-grant from the European Union on the implementation of the project "Dissemination and application of the ideas of the Convention".
Photo by "EuroBelarus" information service
- This project implies holding 7 visiting consultations in the largest village council of Valožyn district, told head of the initiative Larysa Ščarbačevič to the "EuroBelarus" information service. If we manage to save the money, we will launch another initiative, as these are in high demand among people, especially in remote villages.
"Do not keep children at home"
According to Larysa Ščarbačevič, people know little about the ratification of the Convention. Lack of awareness is one of the main challenges put forward by the project participants. Therefore, in the course of the consultations residents of villages of Valožyn district get acquainted as a whole with the legal framework, and with the services of the day stay department of the TSSC, and with ensuring safety of life. It is all told about by representatives of Ministry of Emergency Situations and Ministry of Interior that come to such visiting events. The day stay department of the TSSC helps young people with disabilities developing work skills, introduces to them self-care skills for independent living, and organizes social adaptation process and holds lectures and workshops in various creative areas as much as in 12 groups.
- At first, people wouldn’t come to us, and I can understand the feelings of parents of children with disabilities as my own son has cerebral palsy - those people were just afraid, says Larysa Ščarbačevič. But mother is a mother. She has a child at home who elsewhere is an adult independent person. That's how he or she shows him/herself in the department, eager and able to work, to help taking care of weaker ones, fulfilling him/herself.
The department also provides a "social respite" service which can be used twice a month on Saturdays. Parents can bring their children aged 14 years up in the center in the morning, and do their business till noon. However, it is a paid service: 3 rubles 68 kopecks per hour.
- The days are gone when we kept our children beside, willing to provide them with all the best we could. Now there are many services available for people with disabilities. Our children can and should live a full life - I’m saying this from my personal experience. A home for disabled citizens is not a good option, believes the head of the project.
She is supported by Alena Rai, head of the primary information reception compartment of the Valožyn-based TSSC.
- I have a 16-year-old daughter with disability, and I never had a place to go with my child before as everyone was pointing fingers at us, and only the family could give her something. Now I can start working, I know that my child will be well cared of; she may have some abilities developed to fulfill her potential and be in demand in society. Therefore, if it possible, don’t keep your children at home. They should be able to integrate into society, to work and receive salary, accumulate record of service. This is a great incentive.
Alena Rai told about other services of the center, among which are social care at home, legal counseling, humanitarian aid, paid sawing firewood and mowing round of farmsteads, material assistance, provision with technical means of rehabilitation and their free rent, free rent of baby care accessories, free and paid nanny and nurse services, a psychological assistance, employment.
Changes "in minds and souls"
Therapist of the TSSC Alena Ždanyuk also visits information activities in the project framework. She acts as the moderator, and also a motivator telling that disability is not an obstacle to success, and that the main barriers stay in our minds. Specially for this purpose she has prepared a presentation that gives examples of great people with disabilities: writers, athletes (among them are Belarusian Paralympic sportsmen), pilots, models, entrepreneurs, speakers, Nobel Prize winners...
- There is a habit of saying "we" about "healthy" people, and naming "them" people with disabilities. But disability can happen to everyone, and with it - the transition from "us" to "them" category. With the adoption of the Convention, we are to understand that the stigmata and discrimination based on disability sign must disappear, says the therapist.
However, even now a lot has changed for the better, are convinced the Rakaw citizens. This concerns not only the services, but also the attitudes towards people with disabilities in society, as well as the changes have taken place "in our minds and souls", as noticed by a local resident Ivan. His family faced a challenge of a child disability not at once; the disease began to manifest itself when his daughter was 11 years old. First, the family tried to cope on their own, they knew very little about the possibilities of rehabilitation in the district. Now the girl is 17 years old, she graduated from high school, and has been visiting the office in TSSC in Valožyn for about a year, where she has studied domestic things, and has even performed on stage.
- She has grown up, and should integrate into society, should work, so we decided to contact the TSSC. We are not afraid that people will know about her disease because the society has changed, says Ivan. But at the legislative level, the provisions must exist which people will adhere to, and I hope that with the adoption of the Convention the interaction between society and the state will improve.
The project has already given results
Representatives of local authorities also have a hope for cooperation, and they support the project for the dissemination of the ideas of the Convention with all their might. Alexandr Miakinka, chairman of the Rakaw Executive Committee admits that there are shortages of traffic in the area, which are not easy to solve, and the lack of infrastructure, and a number of other issues. But he believes that the adoption of the Convention can make a difference over time provided gradual implementation of the regulations contained therein.
- The Convention is many little steps, and a specifically defined plan of what we need to do, he adds.
Larysa Ščarbačevič notes that it’s not possible for the project to solve immediately all the issues in the area. However, it will lay the information ground based on which it will be possible to perform certain tasks and get specific results. Even now, thanks to the initiative, the experts of the center have got the opportunity to better understand the difficulties and needs of people with disabilities. Indeed, in rural areas, those are slightly different than in the city where people are more informed, and the problem of access to a particular institution is less acute.
- As a result of the consultations, we have decided to organize a type of work in Ivyanets and, perhaps, in Rakaw, under which our experts from Valožyn-based TSSC will visit the settlements and hold workshops for people with disabilities in order to include them into social projects. After all, people from the area have big difficulties to get to our center in Valožyn, so if there are willing people, we will create the branch office, promises Larysa Ščarbačevič.
The material was prepared in the framework of the international project "Rights of People with Disabilities: agenda for Belarus (Agenda 50)".