December 3rd was International Day of Persons with Disabilities. At Unity Community Center (Unitate) my co-workers put together an interactive workshop to discuss the rights of children with disabilities. Parents, teachers, grandparents, and of course the wonderful children of the center attended. There are children at the center that have mental and physical disabilities as part of the center’s mission is to provide the children with disabilities support services.
My favorite part was meeting and interviewing Evelina, a very sweet and determined 3rd grader that was born with disabilities. She is a wiz on her tablet and is learning French, English and Romanian. While she doesn’t attend the center on a regular basis, the school and the center offer services to her family and social activities for her. For example, she attends celebration events at the center.
These types of educational workshops are needed in Moldova due to the fact that while under Soviet rule, persons with physical and mental disabilities were stigmatized and hidden from the public in family homes or in institutions. There is work being done to improve the conditions for people with disabilities in Moldova and to support this, ongoing education is needed to build awareness of the rights of people with disabilities and to build an understanding that people with disabilities can live fulfilling and productive lives on their own.
One step that assisted this was when the Government of the Republic of Moldova in 2012 approved a new regulation that allocated financial resources from residential institutions to community-based service. This means more money is being give to local communities to support people living in their community instead of all the money being given to the large residential institutions that did not focus on building self sufficiency. There are now some local organizations in Moldova that support people with disabilities, Unitate is one of these organizations as well as Keystone Moldova, a key partner for Unitate.