Album of opportunities

These children turned disabilities into opportunities – because they were given a chance.

UNICEF
Djevojčica
MHegedic/UNICEF
02 December 2020

Every child wants and needs to learn, to play, a smile, and, of course love. Every child has its own hopes, and all children have the right to equal opportunities to make their dreams come true. When children with disabilities are provided with support and opportunities to develop their abilities, they can lead fulfilling lives and enrich the communities in which they are growing up.

So, let's talk about the opportunities and about what it is like when children with disabilities exercise their rights, when they get a timely access to necessary therapies and are given appropriate support in all areas of development and growth.

Meet the children who have been provided with such opportunities, and let us all together make an effort to provide opportunities for every girl and boy with disability in Croatia.

“Luka is my light and my everything, my world I can hug with my two hand. For us, every day is a new beginning and a new challenge. Each new word he learns and says represents a huge and immense joy, but also a reward for our efforts, and an encouragement for further and stronger fight and perseverance. It hasn’t always been easy, and it never will, but we never give up and we always come out even stronger.”

dječak i mama
MHegedic/UNICEF

Mum Marina describes five-year-old Luka as a warm, lively and gentle child, full of love. Read their story.

Dječak
MHegedic/UNICEF

“Prognosis were not promising, and they were all that Marko would never be able to stand on his feet. This was a difficult period, but giving up was never an option. All day long, virtually every day, we used to spend either in the car or in therapies. There were no holidays or weekends – but when Marko stood on his feet for the first time when he was seven, when he learned to climb the stairs – these were huge rewards for me. The two of us managed to do it together – thanks to his fighting spirit and my persistence."

In addition to the therapies with experts, Marko’s Mum Vlatka spent years doing exercises with Marko for half an hour five times a day.

“Sara’s progress and all her smiles make us happy. The moment when Sara looked us in the eyes was a really special moment for us as parents. She was one year old. As soon as she manages to do something she wasn’t able to do before, we take a photo and send it to her physiotherapist, then to the Mali dom, to Grandma, to her aunts. They are all as excited as we are, and they are our great support. To all parents of children with disabilities I want to say to accept all help they can get, and to never give up on their child."

Djevojčica
MHegedic/UNICEF

Read the story of Sara, a girl whose character and cheerfulness bring light, warmth and joy to her family and everyone she meets, just like the meaning of her name implies.

Dječak
MKnezevicBarisic/UNICEF

“Children with disabilities have things to say even if they cannot speak. Thanks to assistive communication Nikola is happier, more satisfied, and full of confidence. Assistive communication helps children with developmental disabilities to express themselves, to say what they want and how they feel. When I ask him "Are you hungry?", thanks to assistive communication, he can now answer yes or no, from the offered food he can select what wants to eat, by showing it on the tablet. These are great things.“

Smiling, playful and curious – these are the three words which best describe Nikola, says his Mum Miranda.

“It is important that all children have equal opportunities, whether they have disabilities or are healthy. It is not good to separate children with disabilities from the children who don’t have any disabilities. Everyone can learn from others. Each of us has things we are not very good at, and our special talents. We can learn from each other, complement each other, and in the end become better people. It is important that all children are given equal opportunities, equal chances. People are people, whether they have disabilities or they are healthy.“

djevojčice
Obiteljski album

Dad Darko and Mum Željka tell us that the girls have been through numerous therapies. For years they attended swimming programmes, therapeutic horseback riding, and of course, many, many, physical therapies.

Obitelj
Obiteljski album

“This is a race in which it’s not important to be fast, it is important to persist, to go on even when you fall, to get up and keep going. This is the race we have been running for ten years or so, since our prematurely-born twins were born, three months early! It is important to persist, to go on even when you fall, to get up and keep going! It would make me happy if people who read this, when they encounter “such” a child next time, instead of thinking “oh, poor thing” they smiled to them and said something kind. Children with disabilities are not poor, they do not need mercy, but support of the society and the system, which would allow them to make progress. They need respect and awareness that they have equal rights as all other children.“

For Vlasta and her husband, a special race, a race of life, began when ten years ago they became parents of prematurely born twins Dora and Borna.

This year’s Milky Way race was truly inclusive, as it was held on thousands of runways and paths all over Croatia with one goal – to ensure urgent support to children with disabilities where it is most needed.

Numerous families, celebrities, athletes, actors, musicians, presenters and writers shared with us their messages for children with disabilities:

Ljudi
MIlej/UNICEF

„Sara is looking forward to each new day, she truly enjoys even small things, she is cheerful and positive, persistent… a fighter. She is social, she likes spending times with family and friends, going on picnics, to the theatre and cinema. She loves spending time at the Dubrava Centre where she learns and has fun with her peers. Sara needs help with the basic needs, feeding, getting dressed, personal hygiene. She can’t walk independently, but she is trying to be as independent as possible according to her abilities."

These cheerful two like to recharge their batteries during walks in the Upper Town or in the nature, on the Sljeme mountaintop, the shade by the Bliznec stream, or in Maksimir park.

Bojana na biciklu
Bojana Gregorić Vejzović

“The value of each society is reflected in how much we care about the ones most vulnerable among us. Children with disabilities need our support – and they need it as soon as possible. We are all connected by one common goal – to make the children with disabilities into children with opportunities."

Bojana Gregorić Vejzović, UNICEF GWA

“Sport has built me into the person I am and helped greatly my socialization. Without sport I wouldn’t who I am today. Children with disabilities have a lot to offer and show, and we need to view them through what they can do and what they are, rather than focus on their disability. I have decided to support this race because I support all actions aimed at children wellbeing, and particularly children with disabilities, given that I myself am a person with disability."

Anto Joskić, Paralympian
Anto joskić
Jan Bolić
Jan Bolić

“Every child has the right to dream about what he or she wants and to realize their dreams. Unfortunately, some children do not have equal opportunities. That is why we must work on creating equal opportunities for all children. Children with developmental disabilities must have equal opportunities as all other children! By providing them with unconditional support and assistance, we must show them that they can dream, and one day live their dreams! We must show them that all people in this world are equal! When I was a child, my surrounding did not let me feel that I was different. That is the reason why today I am what I have always dreamed to be, a writer. And I’m living my dream!”

Jan Bolić, writer

"When I got my first prosthesis, the first steps started, I learned to walk and it became very" cool ". I walk, and then I try to run, I can do that too. Then I realize that I'm the same as other kids and there are no more barriers in my head, I climb, I fall, I run, I fall and so on, but I can, I can do anything I want and I never give up. "

 

Jelena Vuković
Jelena Vuković

This is only one small piece from Jelena Vuković inspiring life story.

Today, Luka can tell his Mum that he loves her. Sara can sit down all by herself. And she laughs a lot. And Marko can walk. They all turned disabilities into opportunities. Because they were given a chance.

But most children with disabilities do not get the necessary support. Together we can change that. Let’s support them, and they will develop and build a better future. Let’s turn disabilities into opportunities.

Support the children with disabilities and donate!