A visit to The Wish Centre

The journey from Chişinău to Călărași was just over an hour to The Wish Centre for disabled and autistic children and youths. This centre is a beacon for many local families who are raising children with special needs. Currently it is the only place in the region they can turn to for help and guidance.

Eugenia, who is just over 30, saw her life take a dramatic turn a decade ago when her sister lost her parental rights, and Eugenia found herself looking after her niece Ana, a baby with Down syndrome.

Continue reading A visit to The Wish Centre

Making books accessible

If you have young children in your life, you have probably come across the “That’s not my” series of tactile books. The chances are you won’t have seen them in this format.

This spring, our colleagues at Communication Space have been leading workshops on how to adapt books for those with multiple disabilities. The changes may be as simple as making pages easier to turn, or they might involve translating text into the PECS language of symbols used by some non-verbal people. As ever, the adaptations are simple, achievable and tailored to the specific needs of each person.

28 professionals and parents took part in the course and between them they made more than 50 adapted books.

The family we can’t help right now

In the last couple of months our partners at The Wish in Moldova have been supporting 18 disabled children.  Each one of them has a personalised care plan and has benefitted from speech therapy, ocupational therapy and specialist education to help them develop their thinking skills.  Two thirds of the families come from rural areas.  These areas are already poor, but having a disabled child usually makes it impossible for both parents to work.  When a child isn’t able to go to school someone has to look after them.  Those who live in the countryside also find it harder to access all kinds of services.  Where possible, The Wish provides free transport.  Very sadly, they can no longer offer this to everyone who needs it, which means some families are missing out.

Continue reading The family we can’t help right now

The fight to allow Liviu to attend kindergarten

When Liviu was a baby he was very agitated.  At a very early age, his parents noticed that he wasn’t starting to babble like other babies.  As a toddler, he didn’t respond to his own name and seemed to be in his own little world.  He would often have melt-downs.  After some time, Liviu was diagnised with autism, a diagnosis which scared his mother.

picture of Liviu working on an activity

Now Liviu is nearly five and he has been attending The Wish centre for a year.  He has benefitted from speech therapy, occupational therapy, a psychologist and ABA therapy.  At first he found it difficult to join in, but little by little he became comfortable with the staff.  He stopped crying and started to be interested in the activities and to react to his name.

Continue reading The fight to allow Liviu to attend kindergarten

Communication Space make communicating worthwhile

When talking comes easily to you, it’s hard to imagine finding it so boring, you just can’t be bothered. However, until Pavel started sessions at Communication Space, boredom was seriously holding him back.

Up until last year, Pavel had taken part in various programmes to help him communicate. These even included using alternative communication, since he doesn’t talk. However, the same pattern would emerge each time. He would learn some simple symbols, they would enter his vocabulary, but then he would get bored and stop using them. He was getting quite disengaged with the whole thing until Communication Space tried a new approach.

Continue reading Communication Space make communicating worthwhile

Our Christmas appeal – a chance to help Ana

This year our Christmas appeal is in aid of The Wish, a Moldovan charity that is providing rare community support for children with disabilities in Moldova.

Ana’s story

Ana is eleven now, and she has been coming to The Wish since she was five.  Ana had a difficult start in life.  She used to live in the countryside with her mother, who is disabled, and her grandfather.  After her grandfather died her mother couldn’t cope financially or practically.  Fortunately, the wider family were able to help and Ana now lives in Călărași with her aunt.

Ana also has Down syndrome.  Her aunt is working hard to try and meet her additional needs and brought her to The Wish.  When she first joined aged five her language skills were poor, as well as her co-ordination and fine motor skills.  The Wish provide her with a personalised programme of therapy including speech therapy.  She also takes part in a whole range of activities, both educational activities and social ones.  Ana is integrated into a local mainstream school, but she only attends two days a week.  This makes The Wish’s support absolutely vital both for her and her family.

Ana is lucky in that in her aunt’s family she feels loved and important as a member of the family.  Eugenia strives to educate her properly and to be her mother and close friend as well.  The Wish supports her aunt and mother by teaching them about Down Syndrome and about some of the strategies and techniques they use to work effectively with Ana.  They are fortunate to have formed a good team with her family – together they can give Ana much more support than either of them can alone.

How to donate today

We are delighted to see the progress that Ana has made, and to see her enjoying our group activities so much.  It is very much for Ana, and other children like her, that we are appealing today.  It is so important that Ana’s care is not interrupted, and so we are doing all we can to fill gaps in the local funding.  Can you help us raise £4,300 by the end of the year so that we can continue to be there for Ana and her family (as well as 29 other children and young people)?

Meet our new Moldovan partners

In Moldova only 26% of the population believe that people with special needs should be included in their community. Like other ex-Soviet countries, Moldova has traditionally relied on large institutions to care for disabled children and adults. This has left communities wary of those who are different, and families with very few support services.

St Gregory’s has a history of championing inclusion in this region. We look forward to working with our new partners to give families access to the kind of support which will affirm their children’s value and help them reach their potential.

On 28th November, Giving Tuesday, there is a great opportunity to help. You can help us win a share of $1,200,000 by donating on that day via Global Giving.

We also have tickets on sale for our online talk on Ukrainian art and architecture from an esteemed curator, Alexei Leporc, at The Hermitage Museum. 

The Wish (Dorintsa) is based in Călărași. They provide therapy and education for children with additional needs in this mainly rural area.

Sunny Corner (Plaiul Soarelui) runs a farm in the Moldovan countryside, where young people with disabilities can get involved in meaningful work and social activities. We are delighted to have co-sponsored a ball for their families, and young people with learning difficulties from further afield, including Ukraine. Parents talk of how the event made them feel visible, and brought great joy to their children.

Rain Kids (Copiii Ploii) is based in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova. The charity provides therapy to children with special needs. Together we are tackling the skills gap by funding additional training for their therapists.

How A-Tech has helped Sasha

Our partners, Communication Space Centre in Moscow, support children and young people who do not communicate verbally. We support their Alternative Technology programme, using hi- and low-tech means to make communication possible. We are delighted that they have been able to move to bigger and better premises recently.

Sasha is one of thirty children and teenagers that Communciation Space help with regular one-to-one and group activities funded by St Gregory’s Foundation. Sasha is 14. Like all Communication Space’s young people he does not communicate verbally. He also has learning, emotional and behavioural problems. In just six months, Communication Space have helped him make great progress.

Continue reading How A-Tech has helped Sasha

Kondopoga’s inclusive summer activities

This year, the summer camp started on 6th June and the Parish is planning to continue summer activities until 31st August before children return to schools in September. 

Currently up to 18 children benefit from the summer camp, 15 of them are disabled children with a range of disabilities: learning disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy, eyesight problems, heart and lung conditions and 4 children are from poor families. All came from the Kondopoga region, the youngest is 6 years of age and the eldest is 15. 

At the beginning of the camp, there was a slight problem with finding volunteers, which  has now been resolved – 2 people help in the kitchen and 3 help run summer activities. One of these volunteers came from ‘ Zabota’ (Care) social centre. 

Every day is organised differently, with different activities such as sewing, drawing, clay modelling, educational games and outdoor games. The camp is also somewhere their parents can get advice, consultation with specialists and volunteers at the Parish and most importantly moral support and a boost to their family budget. Depending on the weather,  lessons are held outdoors and this helps to boost the children’s physical stamina. Masterclasses are held for children to create their own masterpieces in needlework, drawing and applique. Everyone is particularly excited to spend time with Danae, the dog of one of the volunteers who made friends with all the children last year. The children enjoy joining in theatre performances too. 

The Parish is also planning to provide children with school supplies for the new school term.  

Deaf club helps Yunes prepare for kindergarten

When Yunes first came to the club for deaf and hearing impaired pre-school children in January his family was struggling with his behaviour.  Now just a few months later we see a huge difference in him, and his mama does at home too.  This will help him enormously when he startes kindergarten in September.

Read more: Deaf club helps Yunes prepare for kindergarten

Yunes comes from a bi-lingual family and he uses a cochlear implant.  When our colleagues first met him he was almost two and a half years old.  Yunes found it very difficult to sit still, he didn’t play with other children, he didn’t keep to any rules and he didn’t react to sounds or to speech.

He regularly came to the club we sponsor with his mother.  This is a weekly playgroup with specific support for deaf and hearing impaired children. The club includes a music session, snack time, craft activities, free play and specialist support to adjust hearing aids. Since coming to the club, Yunes’ behaviour has changed a great deal.  All the activities are designed to help the children tune into their surroundings.  This has certainly worked for Yunes.  Now he pays much more attention to what is going on around him.  He watches closely what other people are up to and learns how to use the toys and the musical instruments in this way.  He doesn’t just copy movements, he has also started to repeat sounds including individual syllables from some of the songs we sing together.  He has learned to play with other children and joins in with all the activities we organise.

We love it that at the end of an activity Yunes helps put the toys or instruments away.  He also really enjoys helping get ready for snack time.  He puts the cups and plates on the table and helps clear away at the end.

His mama says that at home Yunes has learned how to listen and understand what his parents are asking him to do.  She has learned to see his strengths and both takes pleasure in and praises Yunes for all his little successes.  We are delighted to see their relationship strengthening and Yunes developing the skills he will need to be happy and to make further progress at kindergarten. 

Thank you for making it possible for us to support Yunes and his family.