The project “Find Me. See me. Support me. Providing Support for Independent Living and Social Inclusion”, funded by the European Union under the Human Resources Development Operational Programme, aims to improve the quality of life of 62 children and young people, 48 of them with disabilities, accommodated in the residential services managed by the Cedar Foundation in the towns of Kyustendil and Kazanlak. The project is worth 138 628, 58 BGN and will create conditions for a more effective process of formation, increase and improvement of skills for self-sufficiency and independence, learning, orientation on the open labour market, social inclusion and personal development.
- To improve the quality of life of these 62 children and young people;
- To promote their social inclusion;
- To increase their skills for independent living;
- To develop their talents and support their personal development.
Occupational Therapy. Art therapy
Through occupational therapy we aim to overcome functional disability, achieve a higher level of independence and facilitate the participation of our clients in public life. Occupational therapy is implemented in two directions: functional and occupational. Functional occupational therapy includes cooking and mastering basic household skills, maintaining personal hygiene and household chores. Occupational occupational therapy focuses on maintaining personal interests through hobby or art therapy. Art therapy uses visual art as the primary mode of communication, especially with nonverbal. Through occupational therapy activities, we will help develop motor skills, gross and fine motor skills, concentration, attention and self-control, mastery of basic concepts, formation of aesthetic attitudes, spatial-temporal orientation.
Kinesitherapy influences the muscular system, the process of muscle fibre contraction and their impact on the musculoskeletal system of children and young people with motor problems. It helps to restore and maintain health, psycho-physical comfort, restore the necessary volume of substances in the musculoskeletal system and prevent possible recurrences associated with musculoskeletal problems. Through kinesitherapy, mental powers are activated, motivation will grow and faith in one’s own powers is strengthened.
Children and young people with disabilities have impaired sensory integration- a disturbance in the existing relationship between behaviour and brain activity. Our goal is to overcome this dysfunction through appropriate sensory stimulation and therapy. Sensory therapy is important for learning, it helps to develop motor skills and behaviour, it underpins the development of all the senses. Through it we stimulate: tactility – touch, the sensation of pressure, temperature, pain; vestibulation – balance, sense of balance and movement; hearing – the ability to perceive, recognize, transform different sounds; taste – the recognition and processing of different tastes and textures, the formation of taste preferences; olfaction – the ability to perceive and recognize different smells; vision; proprioception – the sense of body position in space; interoception – internal sensory environment regulating sleep, nutrition, thirst, etc. This will help to explore the environment, develop personal experience and potential.
Most of the children and young people in our residential services have been abandoned immediately after birth. The lack of a positive story that starts with the family and creates a strong foundation for future development, brings gaps in its wake and asks many questions in the direction of “Finding yourself”. Photodrama allows children and young people to build their story based on the reality in which they live and the people who support and care for them. Photodrama is a psychodramatic approach through which a strong therapeutic impact is achieved in working with children and young people who have grown up in institutions through taking photographs with a camera and looking at them. Photodrama sessions enable young people to discover themselves and others and to recall what they have done and how they have felt, to see their own image from the side, to gain new insights about themselves, to gain different experiences, to develop new role models, to accept themselves.
Residential services in Kyustendil and Kazanlak provide care and support for children and young people with and without disabilities in a safe and secure environment, which is close to the family environment and provide assistance for health, psychological, educational and social counselling when necessary. Out of 62 representatives of the target group in Kyustendil and Kazanlak, 33 attend school – mainstream and auxiliary, 27 attend a social service in the community – CSRI, DC or CSC, 1 attends kindergarten and 4 clients do not attend community services due to their severe physical condition. Transportation and accompaniment to school and various community-based services are provided on a daily basis. Very often children and young people have to be transported to a personal doctor, psychiatrist, dentist, and sometimes due to the lack of specialists (or refusal of specialists to work with children and young people with severe disabilities), the opportunities for examinations and consultations of specialists from Sofia or Stara Zagora are used.
In Bulgaria, schooling up to the age of 16 or the completion of the basic stage of education is compulsory. However, some of the children without disabilities living in one of the accommodation centres in Kazanlak had not attended school before being accommodated. All of the 13 children in this centre were behind in completing a certain level of education compared to their peers. The 14th client of the CSCT has completed secondary education but has difficulties in finding a job. Due to past institutional care or trauma experienced in the family, children have serious difficulties in understanding and mastering academic material and progressing to the next grade is difficult. Our goal is to ensure that young men and women do not drop out of the educational process and receive the necessary qualifications to adequately participate in the labour market. This requires systematic and daily pedagogical support and individual help to overcome the gaps and deal with the problems that arise in the learning process.
In addition to the support in self-preparation for school, we plan to provide extracurricular activities for the children. These activities are a factor in making a multifaceted educational impact in free time, building on what has been learned in the learning process. In extracurricular activities, everyone can express themselves from the side in which they feel strongest and most capable. Failures in curricular activities will be compensated for through appearances in extracurricular activities.
Alongside helping children and young people without disabilities to prepare themselves for school and providing opportunities for extra-curricular activities, we will also provide mentoring support. The aim of the mentors is to help children and young people who have experienced severe emotional trauma in their childhood to go through difficult transitions in human life, such as: transition from childhood to adolescence and adulthood, acquisition of knowledge and skills, finding a job and employment, social integration. With the help of mentors, children will acquire valuable skills and abilities for the full realization and self-realization of talents, for the unleashing of strengths, talents…
An essential part of the Personal Development Programme is the issue of choosing a profession and planning a working career, successful and satisfying professional and career development. The Programme also includes a part related to the knowledge of human rights and in particular of children.
Clients of residential services, especially children and young people with disabilities, are at risk of social exclusion. They are pushed to the margins of society and their full participation is hindered by the difficulties they have due to a lack of basic competences or limited educational opportunities. This places them at a distance from social and public life. One of our main goals is to provide more opportunities for our clients and their peers in the community to carry out joint initiatives. Such initiatives would help children and young people without disabilities to communicate with children and young people with similar interests to theirs, to exchange ideas, to discuss plans for professional development, to share feelings, emotions, experiences. In this way they will be given the opportunities and resources needed to participate fully in economic, social and cultural life and to enjoy a standard of living and well-being considered normal in the society in which they live.
This will ensure greater participation in the decision-making processes that affect their lives. In turn, children and young people with intellectual disabilities will have the opportunity to spend time outside where they live, to meet and socialise with their peers, to receive and exchange information and to feel part of the community. This will create the conditions to accelerate the socialisation of our clients and give them the chance to take their place in a dignified environment among their peers. One of the challenges facing our society is the formation of new attitudes and beliefs towards children and disadvantaged people and maintaining social cohesion.
Therefore, joint initiatives of this kind will shorten the existing distance, raise awareness of the life and activities carried out in residential services, and increase familiarity and empathy in the local community.
The aim of this activity is to raise public awareness and achieve optimal publicity of the opportunities provided by the EU financial instruments on the one hand, and on the other, of the way the project is implemented and the positive effect it has on the quality of life of the children and young people in the target group.
During the project 2 public exhibitions will be realised in the towns of Kyustendil and Kazanlak. A short promotional film will be made within the project, which will tell about the results achieved and will serve to raise awareness and tolerance to the problems of the target group of the project.