The inclusive kitchen project, which Olga Stefniak brought to the EU-funded Biz4all "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator" programme, was originally developed by her daughters Yelena and Yulia. The girls took part in the First Social Entrepreneurship School for Teenagers "SEI Youth: My First Business", organized by ODB Brussels in cooperation with Belarusian Youth Public Union "New Faces". Olga got involved into her daughters’ project, and they worked as a united and cohesive team during Biz4all.
Lena and Yulia both have cerebral palsy, and Yulia is a wheelchair user. Therefore, they came to the project with an old dream, which they hoped to translate into reality with the help of coaches and mentors. The dream was to create an accessible environment at home: radio-controlled modular and adjustable furniture for people with disabilities, as well as for people with non-standard body parameters (for example, stout or short people). Yulia Stefniak: "Lena and I love to cook for ourselves. We can cook pasta and eggs, and I make very tasty pancakes. However, Lena usually cooks in the kitchen, and I have my own small stove, which is not very convenient: it stands on a coffee table and has a lot of wires, so it is difficult to get furniture from the stove to the table". After conducting customer-oriented interviews and surveying the market, they had to reject all of the other ambitious plans, and only the inclusive kitchen project was left: the radio-controlled table top. You can read a more detailed account of the Stefniaks’ project in all its development stages in our article “At Home Accessibility: First Radio Controlled Furniture in Belarus”.
Olga describes that they were especially active in autumn and winter. By early spring, the team had already developed a detailed design for the table top, and found an assistant to help them assemble it – Aliaksandr Sarokin, engineer at Vizor Games, and had launched the website. Summer is a time for relaxing and improving one’s health, which is why the Stefniaks try to spend a lot of time in the country, taking an active part in summer recreation camps and getting additional training. Olga says: “We have an agreement with a kitchen installer, and we hope that the table top will already be in place, and Yulia will be able to use it to try out how functional it is”.
|Olga, Yelena and Yulia Stefniak, authors of the inclusive kitchen project. Aliaksandr Sarokin, Engineer at an IT company Vizor Games Photo: Alyona Lis|
Yauheni Boika, coach and partner of BiBox, is the Biz4all mentor of the Stefnyaks. He volunteered to become the project’s mentor because he loved the idea, and the team was very optimistic and positive. Of course, Yauheni’s main focus was to implement the girls’ social project. Yauheni describes: “It is a challenging project, both financially and technically. We need to purchase equipment and fittings abroad, develop a completely new design and involve a construction engineer to assemble the table top. There are also serious marketing and psychological challenges. Polls have shown that the target audience doubts whether they really need such equipment”.
|Yulia Stefniak and Yauheni Boika, mentor of the inclusive kitchen project at the training for graduates of the First Social Entrepreneurship School for Teenagers "SEI Youth. My First Business", 17-18.03.2017, Minsk Photo: Vitaly Brazousky|
The Stefniaks use their own apartment for all their experiments, with Yulia being both the expert and the first user. The family invested their own personal funds over the whole social project. When asked how they changed when working over the project and participating in Biz4all, the girls say that they received a motivation boost and useful new knowledge, which is a real intellectual breakthrough, got a sense of self-sufficiency and self-respect, and developed their organizational skills. The Stefniaks feel a strong energy of life and give it back, so there is no doubt that when girls take something on, it will be realized and brought to a logical conclusion. The team is always happy to welcome new volunteers: now, for example, they need additional help to set up their website.
Text by: Valerya Nikalaichyk
|The goal of the programme is to develop a package of social entrepreneurship training programmes in Russian using innovative international practices, as well as the experience of Belarusian diaspora representatives who have become successful entrepreneurs in European Union countries and the USA.|
The publication was prepared within the framework of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator", implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands), Belarusian Youth Public Union "New Faces" and International Civil Association "Union of Belarusian of the world “Motherland", with the fiancial support from the European Union.