New daycare centre gives hope to children with disabilities
By Venera Urbaeva, Child Protection Officer, UNICEF Kyrgyzstan
TASHBULAK, Kyrgyzstan, 8 February 2012 - The Ariet daycare centre for children with disabilities was officially opened today in the small village of Tashbulak in Jalalabad Province of Kyrgyzstan by UNICEF Representative Jonathan Veitch, Suzak District Administration Head Nurbolot Mirzakhmedov and other guests from central and local level.
It was a special day for more than 50 children with moderate and severe disabilities from the village and neighbouring areas, as well as their parents. Children have already benefitted from the services provided by the centre’s well-trained psychologists, animators, social pedagogue, social worker and speech therapist since July 2011 when the centre began its transformation from the Child Friendly Space created by UNICEF in the aftermath of the interethnic violence of June 2010.
One of the young beneficiaries is Ismailhudja. He is a sixteen year old boy, but looks much younger. “Before, Ismailhudja could not talk. Now he is more confident and is able to pronounce different sounds” says his mother Misiarhan, while watching him interact with the speech therapist. “I have been bringing him to the centre since it opened in July 2011” Misiarhan says. “I dream that he will grow and develop like his brother and sister”.
Ismailhudja needs continuous support from specialists, including speech therapy, in order to continue to learn and develop to his full potential. More importantly, he is in an environment where he can interact and play with other children, thus promoting the social inclusion of children like Ismailhudja. The centre develops individual programmes for every child to enable further social inclusion and mental and physical development.
The life of School 23, which offered space to the centre, has been enriched with new social activities including theatre performances and art events. This helps to address many of the challenges that children with disabilities face, such as stigma, discrimination and invisibility. Social work with families is an important element of the centre’s activities to support the families, give parents the opportunity to find work, improve relations between the children and their families, and increase parental capacity and responsibility. The daycare centre has introduced the social model of disability and is an alternative to institutional care.
Rano Isanova, one of the animators, says “Just after the [June 2010] events we worked with children to provide psychosocial support [at the Child Friendly Space], but now I feel I have a more noble though difficult job of helping children with disabilities. I dream that these children will be able to do things that other children can, and so I give them all my love as my heart aches for their destiny. I am so thankful to UNICEF for helping to establish this centre, because now the children are not locked up in their homes”.
Ismailhudja never attended school and so he is well behind other children of his age. However now, with the support of centre staff, Ismailhudja receives therapy and consultations, and is moving in the right direction. In addition, Ismailhudja is given homework and so Misiarhan finds time to work with him at home as well “Every evening we sit together to do his homework and even though I am sometimes impatient, his sparkling eyes and his smile are what keep me going.”
The centre was established with UNICEF support by local NGO Aimira in cooperation with the Suzak District Family and Child Support Department and local authorities to ensure further sustainability. In 2011, UNICEF provided support for staff salaries, repair of the premises of the centre, construction of facilities (equipment, sensor room and furniture), developing staff capacity, and supporting development of social and rehabilitation programmes for children with disabilities.
Under an agreement between UNICEF and the local authorities, in 2012 Tashbulak village administration will take over all the funding responsibilities for the centre. This is a clear sign that the community has united to help their most vulnerable and often invisible children to realise their rights. The sparkling eyes of those who, despite their youth and challenges, know the value of every moment are the priceless reward that people can get for their humanity.