SKIP Edinburgh is currently planning a new international project. Details of their previous project can be found below:
SKIP Edinburgh is the only SKIP branch with a project based in Europe; we work at a government-run institution for mentally and physically disabled boys in Orhei, Moldova. The institute is home to over 200 boys with a wide range of disabilities and SKIP Edinburgh Volunteers spend time in the summer providing much needed attention and stimulation to the boys.
Our interventions range from creative play and activities to basic disability and postural management and we are creating links with NGOs in Moldovato help sustain our input in Orhei and increase community integration with the boys from the institution. Originally drawing only from medical students, our volunteers now come from a diverse range of backgrounds from Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy through to Biomedical Sciences.
Eastern Europe has been the subject of much media attention regarding the dreadful conditions of many of the institutions disabled children are left to grow up in. Moldova is one of the very poorest countries in Europe, and attitudes to disability dictate that many children grow up in one of several underfunded institutions across the country.
Following advice from SKIP Cardiff’s previous project in Belarus, working at an institute similar to those in Moldova, SKIP Edinburgh’s project was born in 2008.
13 potential project locations were visited before deciding upon the Orhei institute, situated around 30 miles from Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. Orhei had many existing facilities including sports halls, arts rooms, a swimming pool and large grounds but these were almost never used due to short staffing, especially in the summer months, and there had been no volunteer input in Orhei for five years. In 2009, volunteers spent 3 weeks at the orphanage interacting with the children and staff, and piloted some basic interventions that have continued until today, including creative activities and games.
In 2010, we expanded the project to send 2 groups of 10 volunteers, each spending 3 weeks in Orhei, and expanded again in 2011 to send 3 groups of volunteers, totalling 9 weeks of input on project. 2011 also saw the introduction of our disability and postural management (DPM) intervention. With basic training from a qualified physiotherapist, volunteers were taught the importance of posture and movement to children with physical disabilities, and shown how to safely and effectively interact with these children to try to improve their posture and limb function. This was piloted with some success in 2011, and has continued through 2012 and 2013 as we expanded the project again to 4 waves of 10-15 volunteers.
Today, SKIP Edinburgh’s project is bigger than ever. In summer 2013 we have over 50 volunteers going on project across 12 weeks. Each wave of volunteers spends 3 weeks in Orhei working on our main interventions of creative play and DPM. We are also promoting integration of disabled children in the community by taking the boys on day trips out of the orphanage, helping to address the stigma towards disability in Moldova.
In Edinburgh, we have a very strong committee of over 20 members, almost all of whom have been on project at least once before. In 2012, several committee members organised and carried out an extensive research trip to help assess our input in Orhei over the past 4 years as well as forming links with other bodies and NGOs based in Moldova, and a similar trip will take place in 2014 as we continue to make links with the Orhei community and the institute.
We have been working with Hippocrates, a charity supporting families of children with cerebral palsy; Keystone, a charity working towards deinstitutionalisation in Moldova and finding families to care for the boys at Orhei; The Moldovan Social Ministry who are looking to change legislation and attitudes surrounding disability in the country; The Chisinau medical school, where we are looking to arrange for medical students to visit Orhei and learn about disability, an area which is sadly absent from the curriculum at present.
Moldova is a poor country but one which is becoming increasingly forward thinking and SKIP Edinburgh hopes to continue our input at the Orhei institute as well as empowering the local community and local organisations to make a positive change in the lives of the disabled children who live there.