A team of 20 people working in Cedar family-type homes "Siyanie" in Kyustendil and key municipal representatives visited Cardiff, Wales to see some of the best existing services for people with learning disability in the UK. The trip happened in the last week of November and was wonderfully organized by our partners from Learning Disability Wales. It was a part of Cedar one-year project for exchanging good practices in the work with people with disabilities and focusing on empowering them to participate in the decision-making process. The project is realized with the financial support of Human Resources Development Operational Program and the European Social Fund.
Cardiff exchange Nov 2012
It’s been two years since we opened the family-type center “Siyanie” in the town of Kyustendil after the closure of Gorna Koznitsa Institution for children with disabilities. These two years took a lot of hard and passionate work so that the children and young people residing in the small houses and apartments of the family-type center could go a few steps closer to living a fulfilling life. Now three of them go to a mainstream school supported by resource teachers, four of them have a job in the community, all have learned new skills making them more independent and most importantly, all of them have something they never had in the old institution – opportunities to learn and explore the world. The number of people who helped us in the long way to these achievements is endless. We thank all of our supporters – volunteers, experts, sponsors, donors – for your genuine care and help.
“October 17th was the day that I had the opportunity to be part of an emotional reunion. This was a reunion between children and young people with intellectual disabilities who lived together at the Home of Gorna Koznitsa for years and now some of them live in the Family-type centre in Kyustendil, while the others – in the Family-type centre in Bobov dol. Two years after the closure of the Home in Gorna Koznitsa they had the chance to meet in Bobov dol and spend a sunny afternoon together.
An old bus was parked in front of the Family-type centre in Bobov dol which once belonged to the Home in Gorna Koznitsa. Apparently, after the closure of the institution, the bus was given to the Family-type centre, although it is not currently used by the staff there. The bus provoked strong emotions in one of the children, living in the Family-type centre in Kyustendil. “I don’t want Gorna Koznitsa…I don’t want Gorna Koznitsa…”, she said. We assured her that she was not going back there. Next thing we knew, she was hugging one of the young people at the Family-type centre in Bobov dol, saying: “You have grown up a lot. You have become a good-looking boy.”
They have not forgotten their life in Gorna Koznitsa. But they have not forgotten who they lived with there, either. They talked, laughed, hugged each other and asked me to take pictures… Then I showed them the pictures, and they smiled. All people have these emotions: every person would be happy to see their “roommate” or a friend after 2 years of being apart; every person would like to hug the other or have a picture taken of them. I am no exception. Then, I asked myself, with what are these people different from me and my friends? The answer is short: with the fact that they are unknown.
I have been a member of the Cedar team for two months now. As a member of the team and as a young person in Bulgaria, I want these children and young adults, as well as all the other disadvantaged children and young adults, to become known to us: I want to be able to see them not because I work for Cedar, but because they are part of the society. I want to see them laughing at the playground, taking pictures during a walk, hugging their friends in the street. I want to see them among us, not hidden from the society.”
On October 8th the Daycare Center for children with disabilities in Kazanlak celebrated its fourth birthday. Many friends and supporters of the Center’s causes attended the event. Among the official guests were the Deputy Mayor Liliya Tsonkova, who thanked the staff for their hard work on behalf of the Mayor of Kazanlak, directors of schools, children and social centers’services, volunteers who have been working for the Center for years as well as volunteers from the Youth Development Center “Vzaimopomosht” who suggested options for future cooperation. Last year 36 children from the municipality used the services of the Daycare Center for children with disabilities, 15 of them being new to the Center. The Daycare Center Kazanlak is currently working on two projects. One of them called “School for Parents” amounts to 4 000 lv. Within the project two groups, each consisting of 8 parents of children with disabilitiеs, were trained in taking care of them. A Guideline for Parents has also been issued. Two mainstream kindergartens are willing to share experience in this field with the Center in Kazanlak. The second project is in collaboration with the Cedar Foundation. Within this project the Center’s ground floor will be reconstructed and a Daycare Center for young adults with disabilities will be created there, a longstanding dream of the Center’s staff and a longstanding necessity for Kazanlak. Next year interning students, volunteers from England, will work with the children at the Center, and this year the staff has been assisted by interning students from three universities: The University of Plovdiv “Paisiy Hilendarski”, The University of Veliko Tarnovo “St. Cyril and Methodius” and the Thracian University in Stara Zagora. The Daycare Center for children with disabilities received a gift from the parents – a camera, bought with the funds raised at charity events and bazaars. The charity bazaar, organized along with the Cedar Foundation Charity Concert on March 9th 2012, also contributed to the gift.
The Cedar Foundation has been supporting Daycare Center Kazanlak with experts’ help, funding for additional employment of specialists and materials for 3 years now and we’re extremely happy to know its extraordinary and inspiring team.
“I don’t want a guardian, but support” were the words of a lady with intellectual disabilities that took part in a public discussion of the concept of changes in the national legislation, concerning the application of the standards of Article 12, UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Cedar Foundation representatives participated in the discussion, organized by the Ministry of Justice and the Bulgarian Center for Not-For-Profit Law on September 27th at Grand Hotel Sofia. The conference was part of the “Capability and Responsibility: True Prospects for People with Disabilities” project. The discussion was attended by the Minister of Justice Diana Kovacheva, the Deputy Minister of Justice Velina Todorova, the Ombudsman Konstantin Penchev, representatives of the non-governmental sector, as well as people with intellectual difficulties, whose voice is important when the decisions made directly affect their quality of life.
A positive step in the integration process of people with disabilities in Bulgaria was the ratification of the UN Convention by the National Assembly on January 26th 2012. The provisions of Article 12, however, are of great importance for the implementation of the Convention as they aim to ensure an effective recognition that people with disabilities are equal before the law, including in terms of their legal capacity. In this respect the Convention requires that tools and environment for supported decision-making by people with disabilities be provided so that they can exercise their rights independently and effectively. It is these legal requirements of the Convention that require changes in the national legislation of the Republic of Bulgaria, whose provisions in the field of guardianship, custody and interdiction of adults are legally and morally outdated. The discrimination imposed by the current legislation was best described by two participants with intellectual difficulties: “I don’t want people to look at me as if I had fallen from the sky…I am a person like everybody else”, “I work. I have a guardian and every time I want to buy something with my money, I have to ask him. I don’t want a guardian, but support.”