For many years now, the Public Association of Mental Health Consumers has operated in Minsk. Veranika Kavalyova describes that several years ago mothers who have children with mental illness or special mental abilities took the initiative to create an organization that would protect the rights of their children. Over several years, the association organized two first season of rehabilitation camps. Specialists and volunteers provided help to more than two dozens of young men and women. Veranika Kavalyova and psychologist Tatiana Yurachkina came to the EU-funded Biz4all “Social Entrepreneurship Incubator” with their project of a rehabilitation camp for people with special mental abilities “Adnaulenne” (“Renewal”).
First rehabilitation camp sessions
Last autumn, Lithuanian and Belarusian experts conducted research in order to assess whether the system in the country was ready to provide services to people with intellectual and mental disabilities. The results were not encouraging: Belarus has no rehabilitation system at the level of local communities. In the state programme under development now, medical rehabilitation plans for this group of people only focus on individuals with physical disorders.
|Biz4all participant Veranika Kavalyova (in the centre) at the Biz4all training on legal aspects of entrepreneurial activities. Minsk, 22.04.2017 Photo: Vitaly Brazousky|
Meanwhile, numerous world studies prove that rehabilitation and socialization is vital for individuals with mental illnesses in order to stabilize them, increase their remission period, and reduce the amounts of medication they take.
However, unfortunately, specialized state institutions of our country still place the main focus on medication. Tatiana says: “Members of our organization understand that sooner or later, their children will face a choice: either deal with all their challenges alone or be admitted to an institution. The better adapted a person with a mental disability is for life in the society, the better the chance that after the passing of their mother or father he or she will be able to live independently, with the help of a guardian or a social worker”.
|Participants and volunteers of one of the previous sessions of the rehabilitation camp for people with mental disabilities “Adnaulenne”. Photo: personal archive|
Three years ago, thanks to personal initiative of parents from the Association, first steps were taken to organize multi-day rehabilitation camps. Veranika recalls: “It was important then to take people out of their four walls, because, as a rule, people with a mental disability tend to live in a forced isolation: their friends gradually turn away from them, they lose their job, drop out of school or suffer from lack of company. The most negative factor is stigmatization (social and psychological discrimination of any category of people from the word “stigma” – “a stain”). It is people with mental disorders and their families who are most exposed to stigmatization in Belarus. We began with small steps: first, we started to organize day trips and excursions for our clients, helping them to simply get out of the house, as even this is a problem for many".
The first rehabilitation camp was funded with personal money and with some sponsor help. The results surpassed all expectations: after the camp, the participants became more independent, balanced and sociable, and found faith in themselves and in other people. Young men and women learned to plan their leisure time, enjoyed their time shopping, planning the menu, cooking food. The camp improved the participants’ psychological and emotional well-being, helping them to reduce the dosage of the drugs they use regularly.
|Biz4all participant Tatiana Yurachkina (in the centre) at the training on legal aspects of entrepreneurial activities. Minsk, 22.04.2017 Photo: Vitaly Brazousky|
“People who have a diagnosis but regularly go through rehabilitation can live regular full lives”, says Tatiana. “One young man, Andrei Kachanousky, adapted so well that during our second camp session he became a volunteer, then he took some photography courses and is currently earning his own living”.
“We actively continue to develop rehabilitation support. We have seen that just six full days in the camp help people with mental disorders feel better, which motivates us to go on and develop our undertaking further”, adds Veranika.
After coming to Biz4all, “Adnaulenne” project found its commercial footing. According to Tatiana, “it is very difficult to constantly depend on sponsorship. Besides, we would like such rehabilitation programmes to work all year round, and we see our project as a Support Centre for people with mental health issues. These can be people who have already been diagnosed or those in a borderline state".
|Certificates issued after a session in a rehabilitation camp for mentally ill people “Adnaulenne”|
The first commercial session brought together seven participants: four young men and three young women. It lasted six full days and was held at the House of Social Service in Tarasava. Participation in the camp cost 180 roubles for the full 6 days, including accommodation and meals, working with a psychologist, master classes, concerts, excursions, sports events and occupational therapy. Having organized the first session on a commercial basis, Veranika and Tatiana understood that this project is not likely to grow into a business, at least without any financial investment at the initial stage. Our task today is to become self-sufficient. We offer services that are new for Belarus, and not all relatives are ready to pay for them. One of the reasons is the financial situation within the families, which often consist of an adult with a disease who lives on a pension with one of their parents, in most cases a retired mother. The second reason is that over the many years of treatment, people have lost all hope that their relative may get better.
Even those participants of the camp who were initially sceptical about coming to the event, did not want to leave by the time the camp session ended. Now, say the camp organizers, participants call them constantly to ask when the next session will be organized, because they would love to join. Mother of a participant notes: “My son has started to take more initiative at home, he constantly offers to help with around the house, he has made new friends to call and exchange messages with, which is extremely important for him (because of his illness, the young man developed a speech impediment). He constantly inquires about upcoming “Adnaulenne” events because he really wants to take part.”
As for the Biz4all training, it was the marketing case that turned out to be the most useful for the organizers of the rehabilitation camp “Adnaulenne”. The information turned out to be very useful, and they apply it in practice now. They would also like to get some training in writing project applications for additional funding. A community of like-minded people, who also try to grow their ideas into businesses and make the world a better place, is one of the most important motivational factors which does not let you despair and helps move forward through all the obstacles and challenges.
|Biz4all participant Tatiana Yurachkina (in the centre) at the Biz4all training on legal aspects of entrepreneurial activities. Minsk, 22.04.2017 Photo: Vitaly Brazousky|
At the moment, the camp is forming the group for the second six-day session to be held from July 30 to August 5. Veranika and Tatiana says they would be happy to find volunteers to manage social media profiles, as well as active parents and simply people who care and are ready to help organize future camps. They are planning to organize week-end rehabilitation camps, and the first thematic meeting is planned for July 26.
Tatiana admits: "I have worked in this for a long time now, but I want to say that the June session was one of the memorable events of my life this year. I was stunned to see how competent work can change the perceptions of people with mental health problems, help them open up and rehabilitate, and become active participants of the events around them”.
Rehabilitation for people with mental disorders even for a week once a year gives serious results. Participants of the camp stop being isolated, receive basic household skills and qualified psychological help, which is a must for beginning a new active life regardless of their diagnosis.
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.