Unfortunately, the Edinburgh branch of SKIP has closed. SKIP celebrates the fantastic experiences that SKIP Edinburgh had over the years, which are described below:
SKIP Edinburgh was the only SKIP branch with a project based in Europe; working at a government-run institution for mentally and physically disabled boys in Orhei, Moldova. The institute was home to over 200 boys with a wide range of disabilities and SKIP Edinburgh Volunteers spent time in the summer providing much needed attention and stimulation to the boys.
Our interventions ranged from creative play and activities to basic disability and postural management. Originally drawing only from medical students, the volunteers were later sourced 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, SKIP Edinburgh 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.
SKIP Edinburgh’s project became bigger than ever. In summer 2013, they sent over 50 volunteers going on project across 12 weeks. Each wave of volunteers spent 3 weeks in Orhei working on our main interventions of creative play and DPM. They also promoted 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 2012, several committee members organised and carried out an extensive research trip to help assess SKIP’s 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 took place in 2014. The results of their 2014 research trip was released in the Disability and Health Journal. Have a read here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dhjo.2017.01.004 As one of the reviewers said: “this research, and more like it, could be helpful in pointing the government towards ways to begin changing attitudes and facilitating the integration of disabled people in communities.”
SKIP Edinburgh worked 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 looked to change legislation and attitudes surrounding disability in the country; The Chisinau medical school, where they looked to arrange for medical students to visit Orhei and learn about disability, an area which was sadly absent from the curriculum..
Moldova is a poor country but one which is becoming increasingly forward thinking and SKIP Edinburgh contributed through their 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 lived there.