Business ideas presented in public by persons with disabilities and their families

Thirteen  business ideas, all of them developed by persons with intellectual disabilities and their family members within the Small Business Incubator organized by Keystone Moldova with the support of Open Society Foundation / Mental Health Initiative, were presented publicly.DSC01229

Persons with disabilities and their families face poverty mainly because of insufficient social benefits and unemployment. Thus, a small business would become an additional source of income. Therefore, Keystone Moldova jointly with Winrock Moldova provides counseling and assistance to adults with disabilities and their families in developing small businesses that would ensure them permanent and sustainable income.

The committee for selection and approval of business plans heard 13 presentations of business ideas: growing quails for eggs and meat; massage services; mushroom farm; growing tomatoes in a greenhouse; incubating eggs and selling chickens; wall block manufacture; decoration and jewelry making; raising  rabbits; growing nutrias; hairdressing; growing greens, tomatoes and cucumbers; car repair shop; growing strawberries in a greenhouse.

Most business ideas are based on a hobby or a profession that the person prefers. However, the potential businessmen took the economic context into account when developing their business plans: market demand, necessary investment, risks, competition and other important factors.DSC01306

“We want to raise  rabbits. Our goal is to give the young people placed in the service a permanent job and a sound income. All our attempts to find jobs for them failed, so starting a business would be a real possibility for them to practice an activity that gives them pleasure and, at the same time, generates profit”, declared Ion Digori, service coordinator for the Supported Living Service in Orhei.

“By starting a business we want to make a living for our family so we wouldn’t have to go abroad for work again”, said Mariana Rotari, author of the business idea.

The committee provided recommendations on improvement or revision for some of the business plans, and  they will be presented  for reexamination and approval.DSC01275

Authors of winning business ideas will be awarded small grants of up to $2,000 (including equipment and materials). After starting their business, the winners will receive professional training in the respective field based on their needs, as well as assistance in implementing their business ideas, developing necessary investment seeking projects or for other such purposes.

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We Are The Ones Who Can Stop Discrimination!

The auditorium lapses into silence. Actors on the stage freeze in a stop-motion. The audience remains pondering, waiting for something else to happen – How come? Plays usually have a happy ending, don’t they? Someone makes a sign for them to applaud. They start slowly, hesitantly. The actors take a bow and remain on the stage.

 “What did you feel during the play?” the Joker asks.

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 “Sadness”.

 “Shame”.

 “Injustice”.

 They didn’t like it. Little as they are, the spirit of justice is starting to arise in them – Not fair! Some of them remember having witnessed cases of harassment similar to the one they have just seen on stage.

 “Would you like to change the situation?” the Joker’s question follows.

 A couple of young spectators raise their brows inquiringly. Is it possible?

 “Yes!” 80 mouths answer. “We can change it!”

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

The power of art to change something in the society is not a mere metaphor. We do it with our every forum theater performance, and there have been many already – 15 altogether.

 The epic continues – this time in seven other schools, with other eyes fixed on the stage, other hands raised, but with the same vehemence in defending those who are discriminated against.

 The dialogue above takes place after each performance of the forum theater play we have prepared for children. After that follows the big surprise – they are welcomed to come up on stage, play roles and give the story a happy ending.

 The Forum Theater, also called Theater of the Oppressed, is meant to show certain situations of harassment on stage. In the forum theater the audience becomes the positive character who makes a change, offering solutions. People’s own ways of solving the problem developed on stage prepare them to act outside the stage in real-life situations of oppression. That way we can be sure none of those who are present in the auditorium will ever hurt or discriminate against persons with disabilities again. Because that is the play’s core subject – discrimination against children with disabilities in schools. And the little spectators learn to defend and respect them.

 The Joker is a forum theater character, too – the one who ensures the interaction between the audience and actors. He or she is the one who turns the spectator into an actor and together with them tries to find a way to make the world a better place.

 Characters in a forum theater are divided by types which the audience should recognize: aggressors, the oppressed, observers and allies. Of all the characters, aggressors are the only ones who cannot be replaced. However, they can be influenced to change their attitude.articol-TS-7sc2

 Most often it is they, the children, who offer us a bit of life wisdom:

“Anyone can understand if you’re good to them”.

“It’s not nice to treat them like that; they’re people, too”.

“We’ll have the patience to listen to Vadim (a child with an intellectual disability – author’s note) for 4, 5 or 10 minutes or however long it takes”.

“Girls, calm down, you should help him, not neglect him!”

 “We’re classmates and should respect each other”.

“I’d like to bring my classmates. I’ll be responsible for them”.

“Girls, why are you so mean to me? I’m a pupil just like you!”

“Apologize to Dima (a child with developmental disabilities – author’s note), talk to him decently and politely”.

These are some of the solutions offered which stopped the aggressor’s bullying and made the Joker exclaim: “I’m giving you an A for humaneness!”

 Forum theater is a theater for, by, about and with the oppressed. It is the loud voice of oppressed people, making a change through interaction between the stage and the audience. People become actors in their own life and arrive at the conclusion: “We are the ones who can stop discrimination!”.

 This forum theater was organized by Keystone Human Services International Moldova Association jointly with the Community Center for Children and Youth with Physical Disabilities. The activity is funded by Soros Moldova Foundation and Open Society Mental Health Initiative.

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Paradigm Shift in Moldova – Implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

A regional roundtable was held in Chisinau, dedicated to identifying and solving the issues of social inclusion of persons with disabilities in Moldova. The conference, entitled “Paradigm Shift in Moldova – Implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” was organized by the State Chancellery of the Republic of Moldova jointly with Keystone Human Services International Moldova Association, the Embassy of France in Moldova and UNICEF country office in Moldova. Previously, similar roundtables were held in the northern and southern regions of the republic.

The purpose of the event was to contribute to the implementation of the UN Convention and, consequently, to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities in Moldova.

The roundtable conference was attended by representatives of local authorities from 14 districts of the country’s central region and the municipality of Chisinau: managers of Directorates / Departments for Social Assistance and Family Protection, Directorates for Education and District Centers for Family Medicine and representatives of  civil society.

The text of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was discussed by the event participants from the viewpoint of local authorities’ commitment and more active involvement in its implementation. They also managed to identify ways of putting the Convention’s provisions into practice and the obstacles faced by local authorities in the process.

The participants were divided into groups that worked in three separate workshops facilitated by Keystone Moldova experts. They discussed the rights of persons with disabilities to live  independently and be  included in the community (Article 19 of the Convention), to access health and human services (Article 20) and to receive an education (Article 24). While discussing the factors that prevent persons with disabilities from exercising these rights, the participants proposed a number of recommendations to improve the conditions for their inclusion in services and the community.

Roundtable organizers hope to encourage the local authorities to develop and implement action plans for putting the Convention’s dispositions into practice.

Keystone Human Services International Moldova Association helps reform the social protection and care system for persons with disabilities to ensure their social inclusion by means of its Community for All – Moldova program which is implemented jointly with MLSPF, with the financial support of Open Society Mental Health Initiative and Soros Foundation – Moldova.

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Respite Service launched in Orhei district

A new social service for persons with disabilities – Respite – was launched in the district of Orhei on December 5, 2012. The service is located in the village of Peresecina, Orhei and was established within the district Directorate for Social Assistance and Family Protection with the support of Keystone Human Services International Moldova Association as part of its Community for All – Moldova program.IMG_2304

The Respite service offers support to parents, relatives or other persons caring for children and adults with severe disabilities with a view to preventing their placement in residential care. Although most people do not consider it a burden to care for and support their loved ones, it is often hard for them to cope with the physical, financial and emotional pressure. The Respite service temporarily takes over the function of sustaining persons with severe disabilities, offering their families or carers a period of rest. A family can benefit from the service for up to 30 days a year.

People placed in the service are accommodated and provided food, care and other necessary services according to their individual needs (social assistance, educational psychological counseling, health care, etc.). The service can host up to 4 people at a time. Parents and carers of the persons placed in the service can also receive psychological and social counseling and support in overcoming crisis situations. The Respite service is free; therefore, the beneficiaries and their families are spared of any respective costs.

People who wish to benefit from the service need to file an application and a set of necessary documents with the community social assistant (who can provide the list of such required documents) or the district Directorate/Department for Social Assistance and Family Protection.

Seventeen families from the district of Orhei have already benefited from the Respite service. Many of these families have applied for the service again, which speaks for its quality and efficiency. At the same time, unlike other existing human services, Respite implies much lower costs.SAM_0447

The Respite service operates under its Framework Regulation and minimum Quality Standards developed by the Ministry of Labor, Social Protection and Family (MLSPF) with the support of Keystone Moldova and approved by Government Decision No. 413 of 14.06.2012. Keystone Moldova cooperates with MLSPF, supporting and promoting the Respite social service in all districts of Moldova.

Keystone Moldova helps reform the social protection and care system for persons with disabilities to ensure their social inclusion by means of its Community for All – Moldova program which is implemented jointly with MLSPF, with the financial support of Open Society Foundations/ Mental Health Initiative and Soros Foundation -Moldova.

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Community Home Opened in Ialoveni District

A Community Home – a social service for persons with disabilities – opened in the village of Hansca, Ialoveni today. The service was established within the district Directorate for Social Assistance and Family Protection, supported by Keystone Human Services International Moldova Association (Keystone Moldova ) through its Community for All – Moldova program.

A Community Home represents an alternative to residential care, providing persons with severe disabilities access to all community-based services and thus offering them a much higher quality of life. The service is meant for adults or children with mental disabilities who require constant protection, care and specialized assistance. Thus, each Community Home is serviced by a support team made of the director, social workers, a health professional and a cook.

Hansca Community Home hosts six boys taken from the Boarding house for children (boys) with severe mental disabilities  of Orhei. They began living in this home   in June this year and have already shown progress in development.

Mihai got acquainted with all the neighbors quickly and says he wants to become a priest because he likes the church. He is the one who usually meets guests at the door, and if he likes them he sees them off when they leave and gives them his own hand-made flowers. He hides the flowers courteously behind the back and offers them in a theatrical gesture. Being highly responsible, Mihai participates in all the work in and around the house.

“Once upon a time / There was a pretty girl…”, recites Sergiu, the most poetic and contemplative of all the boys. If he feels he can trust you he will recite you poems in a loud voice and then wait for applause. He has learned to crawl in his knees recently, but he will need an operation to walk.

Victor is all just a big bright smile all over his face. He is very sociable, open to everything new; he trusts everybody and is always happy to help. He only pronounces vocals, but his mimics and gestures are so expressive it is easy to understand what he is trying to say. He is the only one of the boys who had gone to school, and he enjoys telling how he raised his hand and wrote on the blackboard in chalk.

Andrei has learned to count and likes coloring. He is the singer of the Home – he knows a whole lot of songs both in Romanian and Russian. He is always joyful and willing to communicate.

“Are you coming tomorrow?”, asks Ion, who has made much progress. He has learned to hold his head up without help and now tries to sit up. He has become active; he shows his emotions willingly, pronounces more words and likes being the center of attention.

Ion –a different young man who shares the same name – has become more sociable, can maintain eye contact, participates in group activities and has even started to sing.

The community, in its turn, gets involved in the boys’ life: village children come to play with them; the woodsman has taken them to the forest; they go to church; the mayor’s wife comes to visit and brings them presents.

The Community Home as a social service acts under the Framework Regulations and Quality Standards developed by the Ministry of Labor, Social Protection and Family (MLSPF) with the support of Keystone Moldova and approved by the Government in 2010. Each Community Home is created based on a social design which depends on the beneficiaries’ specific needs. Beneficiaries are placed in the service by decision of the Committee for the Protection of Vulnerable Children and the district Directorate for Social Assistance and Family Protection.

Keystone Moldova support reform the social protection and care system for persons with disabilities to ensure their social inclusion by means of its Community for All – Moldova program which is implemented jointly with MLSPF, with the financial support of Open Society Mental Health Initiative and Soros Foundation – Moldova.

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Eco-Friendly Social Enterprise in Moldova

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A late fall afternoon. In a room filled with humming, two hands are working assiduously on a colorful package. They keep encouraging one another, running over, fixing, folding and caressing the package, trying to tame it… In vain – the stubborn material refuses to take the shape the hands are trying to give it. But wait, two other hands – the neighbor’s – come to help. Finally, the package gives in, folds the way it should, and is quietly put down beside other packages that all share the same fate. On the table, in front of the two hands, there are many multicolored packages folded in various shapes, all to become clutches in the end.

The hands and their owners – 15 of them – are participating in a training, learning to make bags and clutches out of recycled materials, such as plastic bags and food packages. The idea to use these materials and create unique items belongs to Tara Hopkins, a woman from Ayvalik, Turkey, who has her own workshop there and an outlet market to sell the things she makes. The shop, called Copmadam, is dedicated to providing jobs for women to help prevent discrimination. Copmadam is very popular among Turkish women.

“The idea for our program in Turkey was born out of my frustration. I was frustrated with my job in civil society and at the university. And I thought there should be a way for me to do what I like. I started a job which led to another and then another one…and that’s how I ended up here”, says Tara. “We hope enough people learn to make things the right way so we can sell them here, in Turkey, as we promised. We also hope the women will have their own unique ideas for children and the people in their communities and make many original things we have never thought of before”, she adds.

At the beginning of September, Keystone Moldova supported three women from Moldova to visit Turkey to learn the art of making eco-friendly bags, so they could later pass their knowledge on to others. The goal is to create a social enterprise selling handmade bags and clutches. This social enterprise would create new jobs for vulnerable people in Moldova so they can be successful and become more independent.

Mrs. Liliana Celcinschi, coordinator of Vis Community Center in Bacioi, is impressed with their Turkish experience: “Women working in Copmadam transform materials into valuable things”. She knows how she is going to use the experience she acquired at the workshop and has already started to do it. “I shared this idea with the beneficiaries of the Community Center and also with lyceum students. I was happen to find out that young people are willing to learn to make things with their own hands”.

Another participant in the Turkish training, Mrs. Nina Niculcea, says she has expanded her experience in Chisinau, where she taught other people the techniques she learned. “Besides learning to make bags, we also learn life experiences from each other. I learned a lot from this training, and now I want to pass it on to the centers in Balti, which provide support for children with disabilities. I have already spoken to the director and shown her what I have made. She said she could provide us with materials. And I will come and teach the children, working together with them”.

Parents and social workers caring for persons with disabilities attended the training. It is much harder for them to find a job, and even if they do, it is often underpaid. Now, however, they have big plans for the future. Each of them has already thought of a ways they will use their training experience. “At first, the task seemed impossible to accomplish”, says Mrs. Rodica, a mother. “But now we are beginning to acquire some skills working with these materials. We have realized how useful and interesting this technique is. And it generates income, too. As a teacher, I will pass this idea and knowledge on to children, and I am sure it will spark their interest”.

As for social workers, there are ways for them to apply their knowledge, too. Two women working in Supported Living are planning to teach the young men living there to make eco-friendly bags – slowly, starting simple, to gradually come to the end product.

Among the many women participating in the training is a man who also grasped the bag-making technique and proudly shows off his achievement. “My fingers hurt”, he says. His name is Jens Trummer, and he’s a Program Officer for a poverty reduction program implemented by Open Society Mental Health Initiative. “We try to support Keystone in assisting beneficiaries and their families and laying the foundation of a social enterprise where people can make bags”, he says.

The training was held by Keystone Moldova within the Community for All-Moldova Program with the financial support of the Open Society Mental Health Initiative, as part of the Micro Enterprise Incubator Project. This project is designed to create jobs for persons with disabilities and their families.

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How can you change reality?

The curtain opens to reveal a classroom full of students talking with each other.

–         I’d like to go to the birthday party.

–         What birthday party?

–         Mircea’s birthday, your classmate.

–         Oh, I didn’t know he was  celebrating. And…. are you going?

–         No, only they are going.

–         As always – eating by ourselves and  playing as well by ourselves.

–         But I’d like to go to the birthday party.

The curtain falls and the performance remains unfinished because the pupils on stage were ignored, discriminated against and left alone by their classmates. They’d like to change something. And this thing is possible.

……………………………………………………………………………………

“The theatre is not a lie. It’s just another reality,” said an acting teacher  to his students.  After years, having the opportunity to take part in a social theatre workshop and in about 20 performances, I have come  to realize that we can change our reality into the one being performed on  stage.

This was also realized by those 10 volunteers that participated in  a creative Theatre Forum workshop concerning the discrimination of disabled people. The workshop was organized by Keystone  Moldova , in partnership with the Community Center for children and young people with physical disabilities.

During the three days, while the workshop was performed, the participants laughed, cried, spoke about social problems and the possibilities of solutions, and   the absurdity of love and hate was revealed. Theatre focuses on relationships, and  volunteers learned to interact with their environment, surrounding objects, other actors, and the audience. After that, they created different roles and found those feelings  that they didn’t know they had.

As a result of this training,  an exceptional group of young people who  know what social theatre means and how to use it was created in order to change the discriminatory  attitude in schools.

Social theatre is a tool for social change , that involves the active participation of the audience. Social theatre includes certain categories of characters that the audience should recognize – aggressors, victims, observers and allies. The most important character is the JOKER, who is something like a “master of ceremonies.” The Joker creates the relationship between the actors and the spectators. The Joker prepares the audience and speaks about the performance and then he gathers the solutions suggested by the audience that subsequently are played on the stage. In this way, the spectator becomes an actor who chooses a character and plays his role trying to solve the problem from the stage.

When a spectator is invited to participate in the performance, they begin to resist the discrimination and to protect persons with disabilities. Through active participation in social theatre, spectators understand how hurtful and damaging discrimination is and how difficult it is to change that attitude. On stage for all to see, the spectator makes the decision to no longer discriminate against others and to accept people as they are. They often come to this conclusion without even realizing it, and this decision belongs to them in full. The performance has been already played in 15 inclusive pilot-schools  in the Republic of Moldova. According to teachers’ opinions from those schools, the children’s attitude towards their disabled classmates has considerably changed. Now the performance will be played in other 7 schools.

Social Theatre is an activity performed by Keystone Moldova with the financial support of Soros Foundation-Moldova and the Open Society/Mental Health Initiative.

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