Community-based rehabilitation (CBR) – more than a center
A story of how Leila`s life has changed
The city of Shirvan is located in a desert area of Azerbaijan about an hour-and-a-half drive from Baku. The community-based rehabilitation center of United Aid for Azerbaijan (UAFA) in Shirvan delivers rehabilitation and social rehabilitation services to children with special needs, as well as guidance and counseling to their parents living in the area. The center provides individual and group sessions, and parents bring their children in to participate once or twice a week. There is a great demand for such services in Shirvan, as most families cannot afford to pay for the services offered by private centers.
The Shirvan CBR center, which opened in 2016, has been supported since February 2019 by the EU-funded project “Development of Community and Family-based Integrated Social Service for the most Vulnerable Children in Azerbaijan” in partnership with UNICEF Azerbaijan. Receiving referrals from the local authorities, the minors’ commission, doctors, and city departments of health and social protection, the center at present serves 90 of the most vulnerable families and their children.
“In the regions of Azerbaijan, there are many families in need of community-based rehabilitation services and qualified support provided by child development specialists,” says Elmir Valehli, social work specialist of the project. “There are at present in Azerbaijan three CBR centers, in the cities of Ganja, Shirvan and Agjabadi, that are supported by the European Union-funded “Development of Community and Family-based Integrated Social Service for the most Vulnerable Children in Azerbaijan” Project. We believe that this project brings a lot to the lives of the most vulnerable children and their families, supporting the development and social protection of children with quality services and intervention programs.”
"We believe that this project brings a lot to the lives of the most vulnerable children and their families, supporting the development and social protection of children with quality services and intervention programs.”
One of the children being served at the center is eight-year-old Leila. Leila’s mother, Rugiyya, first took Leila to Shirvan CBR center in 2019. Leila struggles with basic social and communication skills – she has had difficulties in communicating and playing with her peers, and often feels uncomfortable in new environments. She also has speech delay and difficulties in differentiating colors. “She used to cry and did not want to enter in the center” said a CBR specialist recalling Leila’s first day at the center.
After professional interventions by the CBR center’s child development specialists, Leila’s attitude changed, and she started to adapt to her surroundings. She showed interest in the sessions and was willing to work with the specialists.
Leila’s pedagogist, a child development specialist of the Shirvan CBR center, said, "Leila had delays with her cognitive and fine motor skills, which resulted in some problems of pedagogical dependence and emotional symbiosis (emotional dependence on mother). After working with her for a year, once a week for an hour at a time, to correct the above-mentioned problems, we managed to get excellent results. Of course, the parent is a real assistant to the specialist in this process."
The CBR program brings together a community of educators, including parents, to improve the opportunities of children and adults with disabilities.
“Before I took Leila to different centers, but failed to get good results. In spite of her school age, she neither attended school, nor received education at home. Unfortunately, we do not have an inclusive education school in Shirvan. As Leila’s parents, our biggest dream was always to see her as a schoolgirl’" said Rugiyya.
Leila’s cognitive and social skills have improved dramatically in a short period of time, thanks to the social rehabilitation services. Her speech has improved, which has enabled her to effectively communicate, engage with her peers, and participate in group sessions. The center provided Rugiyya with advice and skills that empowered her to better manage and monitor her daughter’s progress.
After a long and challenging journey, Leila was finally enrolled in secondary school number 11, named after T. Bagirov of Shirvan city.
“We could not stop crying when we remember her being so happy, as she was proud to be a schoolgirl and loved spending time with her schoolmates,” said Rugiyya. “Thanks to her passion for music and dance, we sent her to a dancing course in the city.”
Because of the closure of schools due to the pandemic, Leila is now involved in an online rehabilitation portage programme that provides services to support the development of Leila’s skills and capacities.
Said Ruggiya: “CBR center has been a place of hope for our family. With the support of the center’s child development specialists, Leila now enjoys her life with her friends. All her successes make us very happy. Our family loves Leila very much and we always support her. With the right professional approach and intervention by the specialists, my daughter became a pupil, and our dream turned to reality. Our family is very thankful for this center and this project. I wish good and caring people surrounded all children always.”
“Development of Community and Family-based Integrated Social Service for the most Vulnerable Children in Azerbaijan” Project, funded by The European Union is implemented in partnership with UNICEF and local NGOs that work alongside public sector entities in delivering the broadest range of support to vulnerable children in the selected districts.