Most children born with a physical disability in the former Soviet Union countries would be hidden from society in state run orphanages so as not to upset their able bodied peers. These orphanages were often not better than prisons where children were managed rather than loved and cared for. Today disabled children can be seen playing in the parks, with many attending main stream education centres alongside their peers, which is thanks in no small part to the likes of Speranta, a former ChildAid partner, who fought for the rights of disabled children through the national courts.
Today children who might otherwise have been left in cribs are receiving the physiotherapy and care needed to live their lives to the full. The Tony Hawks Centre in Moldova has led the way in treating children who have been born with the likes of Cerebral Palsy, or those who have been involved in road traffic accidents, and given them the ability to walk and play, with some being able to enter main stream educations centres as a result of the care and attention freely given.
Similarly orphans who traditionally were placed in state programmes until their 16 or 18 birthday are being fostered out and cared for in the community. Soviet teaching had previously seen such children as unworthy (sub-human) and unlovable, with many transiting from state care into a life of crime or prostitution on reaching their age of adulthood – with less than 10% ever entering fully into the wider community. Thanks to our partners, many children in Dneprodzerzhinsk (now Kamianske) and Mukacheve are being found foster homes, or have access to one of our two local partner programmes whilst they continue to be in state care. Our partners are delighted to ensure these children are routinely deloused, have access to hot showers, and can enjoy supervised play where fun is at the heart of everything that goes on. Lives are being changed.
In Belarus, the Isle of Hope program has enabled disabled young people to receive the care and professional support they deserve. Instead of being locked away in state run institutions, or kept at home away from prying eyes, these young people now enjoy the opportunity to learn, to visit parks, and be seen and better understood by the community. The parents, typically mums, are now free during the day to take on paid employment which helps raise self esteem and brings valuable rubles into the household with which to buy food and pay for essential services such as heating.