Post by Charlie Hooker, CEO of KHSI
Since 2008 when the Community for All – Moldova program began, thirty-four boys and young men have moved out of the institution at Orhei and thirty-four others have been able to receive services in the community rather than being sent to the institution. I travel to Moldova quarterly with members of the Open Society Mental Health Initiative to see the program’s progress first hand. Earlier this May, I visited Keystone Moldova with Judith Klein, the director of OSMHI.
Through the Community for All – Moldova program, not only are the boys and young men being supported to leave the institution at Orhei and rejoin their families and communities, but a sustainable system of community-based services is being created, children at risk of institutionalization are able to remain at home, families are being empowered to become strong advocates for their children, schools are including all children with and without disabilities in the same classrooms, and the community is learning to welcome and accept individuals with disabilities.
During our trip, Judith and I visited the institution at Orhei and met several young men who will be rejoining their communities with the support of Community for All – Moldova’s newly created community-based services. We also visited one of the inclusive schools and witnessed the benefits of inclusive education for children with and without disabilities.
Please watch the video of Iulian, a boy who returned to his family and is now attending classes with his peers at one of these inclusive schools. Now that she has seen the progress her son has made, Iulian’s mother has “so much courage and optimism in her soul that she thinks that anything is possible.”
Stanislav is another young man who has been reunited with his family after spending several years in an institution. Returning home was one of his nicest memories, and he asks society “to behave nicely with children with disabilities, to treat them as normal children. We are the same. There is no difference.”
Watching the videos of Iulian and Stanislav, seeing the progress that Community for All – Moldova has made and meeting some of the young men who will be rejoining their communities has given me hope that one day all people will be fully accepted and included in the community.