Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lessons on Tolerance - A Special Guide in Life

During the 62nd Session of the UN General Assembly (19.11.2009), the 20th of February was set to be a day of Social Justice in the world. This has started to be acknowledged since 2009. The initiative to set a day like this belongs to the Government of Kyrgyzstan. The resolution that aimed at organizing such date was compiled by co-authors from more than 80 countries. This year the Day of Social Justice in the World has been celebrated for the first time in Ukraine. The aim of commemorating this date lies in attracting attention of the local and national government, society, and NGOs to the question of social justice and an urgent necessity to unite efforts in order to build a country based on social justice, as well as a strong need to embark on discussions connected with coming up with strategies that will help to introduce social justice to Ukraine.

Inspired by such an important date in the world, the administration and the volunteers of the Charitable Foundation “Crocus” in Kolomyya decided to make a step towards implementation of the social justice scheme in Ukraine through integration of people with disabilities (in particular with mental disabilities) into society. The administration and the volunteers conducted a series of lessons on Tolerance aimed at the students of the Pedagogical College in Kolomyya. With support of a FLEX Alumni Grant the lessons were organized and conducted by FLEX Alumni Halia Biletska, Peace Corp volunteer at “Crocus” Mike Woo, and the director of Charitable Foundation “Crocus” Liubov Masevych during two days – 20th -21st of February.  During these two days, the organizers trained students from the Pedagogical College on strategies of conduct and communication with people with mental disabilities, taught them to destroy the long-established stigmas in the society, changed negative attitudes towards people with special needs, and gained an understand of their problems, desires, and dreams.

The total amount of classes conducted was 6 classes that involved approximately 150 people. The students had an opportunity to watch a movie about the life stories of different families that raise children with intellectual disabilities, personally talk to young people with disabilities, learn to listen and understand, dream together with them, and realize that their dreams are similar in their essence, and that all people want to be happy in life. The students also had a chance to understand that because people have different abilities in life (physical and intellectual) the ways in which they achieve success and happiness differ.

The organizers were trying to prove with help of different experiential games, life situations modeling, communication tasks, and other methods, that no matter what disabilities or special needs a person might have, all people need as much love, care, and understanding as we can give each other. The organizers could see that all the students who attended a lesson were touched by the information given to them. All of them have their life stories – some of them were thinking about their friends, relatives, or neighbors and analyzed the way they behave and treat these people. The students were deeply touched by the problem, because some of them have never even come across such issues – they have never had a chance to communicate with people with special needs. Some students could not help but demonstrate their emotions through tears, warm words of appreciation for a life lesson they had a chance to learn and remember. We hope that the final words of the lessons will guide the students and remind them that:

Remember, dear friend, that life is not a fairy tale!

It has a lot of melodies for you

Still blessed be your heart with love today

And freed from all the songs of gloom!

Remember, dear friend that life should not be an award

You proudly take after the race

Your life should always be the special road

You follow subtly and embrace!

During the lessons the students also received special invitations to the training conducted by a member of the Theater Association of Ukraine, the teacher of acting art and production techniques of Kyiv Arts College, as well as the director and producer of the Theatrical Studio “The Seedlings”, the art director of the International Integrational Theatrical Festival “Sun Wave” – Vitaliy Volodymyrovych Liubota. The topic of training was the following, “Creative reflection and self-realization of a group of people with intellectual and physical disabilities – the road that starts from theory and goes on with practical experience”.  

The training took place on the 22nd and the 23d of February, 2013 in the Pedagogical College dance hall. The total amount of hours of training – 10 hours; the total amount of people that were actively engaged in the event – 42 people. These were students, social pedagogues, and psychologists from local schools, the employees of the Social Help Center for children, youth and their families; people with special needs and their parents. Vitaliy Volodymyrovych left behind many memorable moments and “the seeds” of inspiration. We hope that these seeds will grow into a powerful tree of activism and desire to change our society forever by bringing some new forms of art expression to the life of special needs individuals – theater therapy. This day has marked the beginning of a new small project by Halia Biletska and Mike Woo under the title “Day with Art”, supported by the Youth in Action Program of the European Union, the organization in Czech Republic “Hnuti Brontozaurus”, and the Training Course Program “MyXperience”.

The introduction of Art Therapy sessions for youth with special needs in Kolomyya is largely supported by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Ukraine and the Community Fund of Dolyna.

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