A unique greenhouse opened in Dorozhne village, Vinnytsia Region.
Ordinary tomatoes, cucumbers, pepper, plant eggs, cabbage is grown here, as well as various types of greenery. But the uniqueness of the project is in the fact that young people who are working there are disabled people suffering from complex disabilities – cerebral palsy, autism, Down’s syndrome, as well as people in wheelchairs.
Why do they work there and what motivates them to work there?
The utmost reason they work there – they feel realized and useful.
Three young guys slowly though with all the enthusiasm are planting tomato seeds: one is digging a hole, another one is putting seeds into the hole. All of them are wearing masks. Due to quarantine measures, they are working in small groups.
“We had a chance to do IFA tests to control the epidemic situation to prevent COVID spread. Therefore our greenhouse is working – there was no shutdown, and we are strictly following all the requirements” – says the social worker, greenhouse manager Anna Pryadkina.
The greenhouse is 100 square meters, it is equipped with a droplet automatic watering, lighting, heating, ventilation, and multi-layer racks used for planting a variety of vegetables and greenery.
The greenhouse was built with the support of the Canadian government in the frame of the “Promise” project partnership with a 290,000 hryvnia budget only.
“Ukraine is the source of the future” social program’s support has helped to buy special equipment – a track, a dryer, etc.
16 young people aged 18 to 40 are working in shifts. They all got the service from a social initiative called “Open hearts”.
On top of working at the greenhouse, these people are making souvenirs, soap, candles, taking care of flowers and bushes. They get help and supervision from social workers and a group of moms.
It just took 30 minutes for the guys to plant 400 seeds of sprouts. The psychologist was involved in order to energize and motivate the guys.
“Young people are working in shifts, in line with the individual schedule- their mood is not stable and, therefore social workers and psychologists are closely involved in managing and helping the mood state” – explains Anna Pryadkina.
Thirty-six year-old Sergiy is suffering from an intellectual disorder. His mood is changing radically. “From childhood, we were getting treatment in medical clinics, -explains his mom Mariya. Meanwhile, I have stopped feeding my kid with numerous medicines as it was not really helpful. He was not developing in line with his age group, however, I taught him to write and read. Now he is trying to control his emotional state. He enjoys working physically. It helped him to be more organized and what is the most valuable in all this is that he feels realized and needed”.
“I really like planting sprouts and working on the land” – says Sergiy. I miss my work a lot and feel happy to see the result of my work”.
Another mom- Natalia- says that she had a chance to see her daughter through another lens. “My Kateryna is 24 years old. She suffers from a speaking disorder and moves on a wheelchair – says Natalia. Once I was in a coordination group of moms to supervise disabled people. I could see how she communicates with new people and gets open to new surroundings. Kate likes planting, watering, and everything that helps with fine motor skills. All the skills that she has mastered here would be instrumental in her future and may help her to generate her personal income like any healthy person”.
We did not want our kids to grow in special clinics for the disabled.
“We work to ensure our young disabled people could develop their working skills, – says Svitlana Demko. When they concentrate on their work, they become more emotionally stable and this helps their emotional state”.
Svitlana is managing the “Open heart” association in Vinnytsia. On top, she is a mom of 35 years old son Anton. “He suffers from complex cerebral palsy and is moving on the wheelchair, -says Svitlana. At some point in time, I considered emigrating from Ukraine, however, it did not happen, and I am happy to live in my home country”.
Svitlana states that today disabled kids have much more opportunities to socialize compare to soviet times and she reminds how she was looking for moms who are having disabled kids as well. It was not easy – at day time disabled people were “hidden” at homes. Those communist builders made everything possible to hide disabled people from society in special clinics, explains Svitlana. She remembers – it was allowed to enter the shop with a dog, but not with a wheelchair. “These were difficult times. However, I have found peer moms who did not want their disabled kids to live in the clinics, out of society”, – says mom.
After the Soviet Union’s fail, Svitlana and her peer moms have studied the best practice from other countries – the work of social institutions in particular, and have initiated the creation of rehabilitation centers. “Our kids were our key motivation. At each stage of our kid’s lives – we were learning from best practices and adapted them to our Ukrainian realities.
In the US, EU countries there were a lot of best practice cases on how to organize the support for disabled people. In 2018 due to “Promise” project support, we have visited Poland to learn from them. This is where we saw the examples of labor therapy for the disabled in greenhouses. Disabled people are involved in planting sprouts and microgreens. They have a farm with horses, ships, and even dairy. So, we set a target to organize something similar in Ukraine- an inclusive greenhouse”.
The salary payment is not feasible so far.
“In 2020 we have managed to plant 600 bushes of tomato and almost every day we were harvesting up to 4-5 buckets of tomatoes.
This allows having vegetables in a food ration for 12 months a year for our disabled people”, -explains Svitlana.
“So far we can not sell the products on the market and pay salaries to the disabled workers. And the reason is the law that considers disabled people as unable to work. The legislation lacks norms to regulate social entrepreneurship. We involve young disabled people in labor practice to prove to our society and parents that disabled people could and should be socially active. So, our inclusive greenhouse has a vitally important mission – to integrate people into various spheres of life. To survive and to be competitive we need to ensure the changes in legislation and tax policies are implemented”.
Publication prepared by Liza Tuka for EMPR
Tags: Business Culture Ukraine