IN 1999 we found that a young man called Sasha had moved on from the Children’s Home at Zhuravichi to an appalling mental instititution. Sasha was an intelligent young man, whose only disability was that he could not walk. We managed to move him temporarily to a better home, and resolved that we should set up a small home for Sasha and a few other young people like him.
Gomel Regional Education Department gave us half a kindergarten in the village of Klimovka, half an hour out of Gomel City. We spent several months in the year 2000 renovating it and turning it into a very comfortable home for four young people with physical disabilities.
Sasha moved in to the home in November 2000 with two of his friends from Zhuravichi – Liena, who has Spina Bifida and Greesha, who has cerebral palsy. They were later joined by Sveta, who grew up at Rechitsa Boarding School. Sveta had received a good education, whereas the young people at Zhuravichi had never learned to read or write, to care for themselves or even make basic decisions.
The young people, with the support of four excellent carers, have caught up on some of the education they missed and learned to cook and look after their home.
The Social Protection Department in Belarus were very supportive and the Director of the Department for Gomel Region was very proud of our ‘Family Home 2000′ and encouraged other regional authorities in Belarus to look for foreign partners who could help to create something similar, using Klimovka as a model. A home for six young people with disabilities was subsequently established in a village called Rechitsa with funding from an Irish charity.
Sveta worked as the receptionist/secretary in our Mayflower Respite Care Centre, and soon moved on to live independently. Sasha moved on to a bigger home as he decided that life at Klimovka was too quiet for him, but is now living with his sister. Liena and Greesha are very happy at Klimovka and we hope it will always be their home.
In the last few years, Klimovka has also acted as a stepping stone in the transition period for young people with disabilities leaving institutional care. Several young adults have lived at Klimovka whilst studying at college, and since moved on to a more independent life in Gomel city. More recently, residents from nearby Duyanovka institution have enjoyed some short respite stays at Klimovka, where they can improve their life skills and have a break from life in the institution. Klimovka is now a busy hub of activity, a safe place for young disabled adults in the area to meet, socialise and develop.
There is much discussion in Belarus now about ’supported living’ and an understanding in the Ministry of Social Protection that it would be better to move away from keeping people in large institutions, so that we hope Family Home 2000 will soon be used as a model by the state.
To see photos of Klimovka see our web album
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