Loza Foundation has been part of EU project ‘TIMOR’ since 2019. The goal is to create group homes in North Macedonia, into which disabled people from the institution in Demir Kapija can move and have a dignified life as part of the local society. Unfortunately, at the end of 2022, this successful EU project will come to an end, but Loza’s work for the disabled continues.
“If everything goes according to plan, around 60 people will remain at the institution in Demir Kapija after the project has finished. Loza Foundation continues the work to ensure that all the individuals will be moved to group homes with dignified living conditions”, says Sabina Grubbeson, Secretary-General, Loza Foundation.
For almost three years, Loza Foundation has worked to get people with disabilities out of the institution in Demir Kapija and into group homes. The work has been carried out within the framework of EU project TIMOR. The people who are now left at the institution are people with severe disabilities and require lots of care. Moreover, the premises are in deplorable condition and do not meet the required accessibility standards, e.g. wheelchairs are often missing wheels and a seat.
“While we are delighted that so many have been moved out, it is painful to see many are still there. The staff are also expressing frustration and disappointment, and to the personnel, we want to emphasize that we are not giving up; we will keep on working to give everyone a good home.”
As the most robust individuals have left the institution by now, only the weakest and most disabled people remain. Although it sounds contradictory, this actually means an increased workload for the staff.
“In the past, the stronger, more able-bodied could help their fellow residents and thereby relieve the staff of some duties. Now the staff are buckling under the workload, and the living conditions of the residents have sadly deteriorated further.”
Loza Foundation continues to strive to create opportunities for the living conditions of the remaining 60 disabled residents to improve. Back in October, the new chairman of Loza Foundation, Pär Rylöv, visited North Macedonia and the infamous institution in Demir Kapija.
“We are working on finding a good solution for the remaining residents. At the same time, our fundraising continues, and we are communicating with the authorities in North Macedonia. Our goal is that no one should be left behind in that institution, says Pär Rylöv, Chairman, Loza Foundation.
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The project is a success but has stirred up a lot of feelings
Despite hardships such as a pandemic and inflation, the project has proceeded.
“TIMOR is a successful project. CeProSARD, which we collaborate with locally, has had to put up with challenges such as inconsistent guidelines or rules and the social stigma linked to disability that is very much present in North Macedonia. Our project team has handled each problem calmly and patiently.”
Up to now, it has been unusual for disabled people in North Macedonia to be a part of society. People are not used to seeing or meeting individuals who are different. The CeProSARD project team has put much effort into informing, communicating and responding to people’s scepticism.
“We have tried to tackle prejudice, for instance, by participating in TV and local media. Our goal is for the public to discover the joy and love disabled people spread all around and to accept them as part of society.”
Their work has sometimes involved publicly displaying pictures of vulnerable people, which has raised questions and caused certain reactions.
“The purpose of Loza Foundation is to help vulnerable people to achieve a dignified life. The communication and information we have put together to describe our work can often evoke strong feelings. Still, by showing the world what the situation is like right now, we hope to make more people understand and increase awareness.
Gardening is part of the therapy
Within the TIMOR framework, methods for restorative, therapeutic activities have been developed, e.g. gardening and growing herbs. All in all, 25 nursing assistants have been taught gardening therapy (green therapy).
“Gardening therapy is healing and restorative. Research shows that it has calming effects and reduces anxiety and worry. Furthermore, it brings joy and physical activity too. The group homes need donations to be able to continue gardening, for instance, seeds and garden tools. There is also a never-ending need for clothes, shoes, and items linked to learning and creativity, such as jigsaw puzzles and educational board games.
Life outside of the institution
Moving out of an institution and into a group home is a huge change for someone who has lived their whole life inside the walls, in a world totally closed-off from the rest of society.
“Individuals adapt in their own time, some people faster than others, but over time, we can see they feel better, become happier, function better in their everyday life and their communication with the world around them improves too.”
In some cases, special arrangements must be made, and the number of staff members needs to increase in order for the disabled to be able to live in group homes. Such research and mapping need to be carried out on an individual basis.
“We foresee that a new project may have to be put in place to meet the demands of special, bespoke group homes, and this is something we will look into.”
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FACTS about PROJECT TIMOR:
Since November 2021, ten group homes have been opened within the framework of Project TIMOR.
The latest, in Bashino Selo, is now housing five people who moved in on 28 November. The head of the operation is Daliborka Zlateva, who Loza Foundation has written other pieces about before.
A LIST OF GROUP HOMES:
- Demir Kapija I
- Demir Kapija II
- Demir Kapija III
- Demir Kapija IV
- Demir Kapija V
- Gradsko I
- Gradsko II
- Bashino Selo
Every group home has five residents and five staff members who, through the project, have been trained to work as nursing assistants for the disabled individuals.