Fifteen people are moving out of the Demir Kapija Institution

Ever since the founder of Loza Foundation, Sabina Grubbeson, visited the institution in Demir Kapija in North Macedonia in 2016 and revealed that the living conditions were much worse than most people could imagine, the aim has been crystal clear for Sabina: All the residents should have a reasonable life with good living conditions.  Now, five years later, with the help of Loza Foundation, the first disabled people can move out to the newly-built group homes where they will be able to start a new life with better living conditions, in freedom, with dignity and even with respect for their personal integrity.

”Even if Loza, for the last few years, have done everything we can to improve the living conditions for everyone at the Demir Kapija Institution, it is still an unacceptable environment for people to live in. So the fact that some of the residents can now move into a real home is truly amazing and a result of the hard work the project team has put in”, says Sabina Grubbeson, Secretary-General, Loza Foundation.

Today, slightly less than 200 people live at the institution. Before this Loza Foundation project is finished, the plan is for all these residents to have moved out into group homes. The residencies are built according to a Swedish model; five to six residents per house and qualified support staff on hand. The plan is to build a further seven group homes in the next twelve months, and that another 35 people will be able to leave the institution during 2022.

”Everyone has the right to a home. Media has in the past described Demir Kapija as an institution of horror, and here, disabled people with a variety of physical and psychological needs have been kept under lock and key. Many of them ever since they were children.“

The project is run by the Loza Foundation through fundraising and grants from an EU-project working to help future member states meet human rights requirements.

“Thanks to Loza’s advocacy and lobbying local authorities, we have managed to make an impact not just locally, but centrally on an EU-level too. North Macedonia has passed new laws, e.g. the citizens have the right to personal assistance. We rely on fundraising and at the upcoming charity event at Varbergs Stadshotell on 6 December, we hope to raise even more money for this project and spread the information of how individuals and companies can help us give the Demir Kapija residents a better, more dignified life.“

A moment of deep gratitude and joy. One of the residents kisses Sabina Grubbeson’s hand. Photo: Dare Dimov

Since the residents have spent most of their lives at the institution, many of them are in very poor health and need physical and mental rehabilitation when moving into their new homes.

“Many of them cannot remember a life outside the walls of the institution, so even when their situation actually improves, the change itself can be perceived as a trauma. Therefore, preparing the residents for the move has to start a long time before they physically swap the institutional dorms for a home of their own and carry on for quite some time in the new group home. We can already see that the transition will lead to other needs for support and we are working continuously to raise funds for these requirements too”, Sabina explains.

Sabina founded Loza Foundation because of what she witnessed in 2016 when she visited Demir Kapija for the first time. The photos and reports revealed violations of human rights. These violations had been allowed to carry on, right in the heart of Europe, without any aid organisations realising, without any of the local authorities sounding the alarm nor the EU noticing. Thanks to Loza’s publicity measures, Swedish newspaper ‘Göteborgsposten’ and Swedish television station ‘TV4’ covered the story, and these reports got a lot of attention.

“International aid organisations have called Demir Kapija institution one of the worst institutions in Europe. Several global organisations that work with children’s rights have been involved in moving minors out of institutions, but very few work with disabled individuals’ rights regardless of their age. Loza was founded as I wanted it to be a platform for humanitarian aid, specifically working with disabled people and other vulnerable individuals living in some of the poorest countries in Europe. Today, the organisation is mainly working in North Macedonia”, says Sabina.

Over the last two years, the corona pandemic has had a negative impact on the project. It has been very difficult to implement the changes and measure as fast as we had hoped to and many of the delays have been incredibly frustrating.

“Now we have finally reached the first milestone, and it was a great pleasure to be there when the first few people could move into their new home. That was the day I had been waiting for since founding Loza Foundation and the day the residents of Demir Kapija had been waiting for for most of their life”, says Sabina Grubbeson, Secretary-General, Loza Foundation.

Emotional reaction when the staff show the 45-year-old man the first clothes he has ever owned. Photo: Dare Dimov
The new house will now be home to five people who have spent most of their lives inside the institution at Demir Kapija. Photo: Dare Dimov



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