|© UNICEF video|
|At the Botanica Centre, children with disabilities take part in a wide range of activities with their non-disabled peers.|
By Thomas Nybo
On 5 October UNICEF’s Innocenti Research Centre will release their latest report, entitled ‘Children and Disability in Transition in CEE/CIS’. The report examines the situation of children in the CEE/CIS region who have a variety of disabilities.
CHISINAU, Moldova, 3 October 2005 – Alexandru Cibotari is an exceptionally bright, outgoing 12-year-old. But like one in every 100 children in Moldova, Alexandru has a disability. His legs are paralyzed.
"The most difficult part of my life is when other kids play games that I can't play and I can only watch," he says. Alexandru lives with his mother and their two dogs. His mother works full-time and cannot spend as much time with him as she would like. Alexandru wants to work with computers when he grows up, but the local school is closed to him because of his disability, and his mother cannot afford a private education.
Too often, the only choices available to children like Alexandru are to stay at home – missing out on an education and spending much of their time alone – or to live away from their families in a residential institution.
"We are aware that there are many disabled children who are totally isolated from society,” says Kirsten Di Martino, a UNICEF child protection officer.
“They grow up within the family, never leaving the home because there is a very strong stigma against disabled children. They are sort of hidden from society or just abandoned in residential care institutions.”
Four years ago UNICEF teamed up with the municipal government in Chisinau and a non-governmental organization called Motivation to create the Botanica Centre. Botanica offers rehabilitation programmes, counselling and access to a wide range of recreational, educational and vocational activities, to help prepare children for the future.
At the Botanica Centre, children with and without disabilities mix and mingle. Alexandru has been able to make many new friends.
UNICEF is working with partners to help integrate children in wheelchairs into regular schools in Moldova.
5 April 2005: Thomas Nybo reports from Moldova on the UNICEF-supported Botanica Centre, which offers children with disabilities an opportunity to learn, play and meet other children.