The GP has told on several occasions about the institution in the community of Demir Kapiga in North Macedonia where about 200 disabled people in the country live in terrible misery. Many came to the department as children and lived their whole lives there.
Sabina Grubbeson started the Loza Foundation charity in 2017 and has since worked to create better living conditions for the department’s residents. Now a big step has been taken in the right direction.
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Last weekend, the first people from the department moved into one of the new group homes that Sabina was involved in and built with the help of donations and an EU project that spans more than three years. It has now been two years and during those years accommodations have been found for the group and the trained staff. The project faced many problems, among them the epidemic, which has significantly delayed the project since the exit of the state and said that they can operate only 12 homes. For the remaining residences, they had to look for authorized private parties.
– I still hope and believe that the group accommodation will be good. On the other hand, I can see that the financial resources received by the population are very small. This means that the special representatives will hardly get around. We will need to support them with basic things like clothes and aid.
Implemented a national media campaign
Now three houses are ready and the top five have moved from the section to a group house. Each house should have five people living and there should be employees working around the clock. On the other hand, Sabina believes that the order of precedence for who is allowed to leave the department was not entirely fair.
Those who can communicate must act first. We have done a nationwide campaign to make them more acceptable in society. I think the authorities think it’s easier to start including those who are more normative, she says.
Two years earlier, UNICEF had opened three homes for all the minors living in the institution. When it was time for them to move, demonstrations broke out and locals blocked the way for the cars they were in.
– So we have to make sure the audience is with us. It got a softer tone but the closest neighbors of the new collective housing asked us to build a wall opposite their house so they don’t have to see the property from their balcony.
People cried for happiness
Sabina says it has so far been an emotional journey that hasn’t ended yet. The plan is for as many people as possible to be removed from the institution before the time for the EU project expires.
For me, it is a great relief that we are now on the right track. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.
She describes the day of the transition as very emotional. Everyone who was now allowed to move into the newly renovated house lived most of their lives in the department and had no belongings. Sabina says many have just pointed out things and wondered if they really belonged to them.
Whoever comes in a wheelchair with cerebral palsy and cannot speak but communicates with signals. When he entered, he started pointing at all things and became very emotional. As soon as he saw his bedroom, he and one of the staff members started crying and hugged each other, she says and she herself cried on her throat.
She says the staff then showed him his wardrobe. He got there completely unpacked and was dressed in department clothes. Now he had his own clothes.
– Then the reaction was very strong. They both laughed and cried at each other. You can’t really get into it. The local photographer who was with me said it was a very special experience. He then wrote, “I’ve never worked on a project like this and have never heard of anyone else doing this. Thanks!”
The next step for the project will be to continue moving people into the other two prefab houses and then slowly start introducing the residents to their new life.
– They did not have their own kitchen before or were engaged in cooking, so there will only be new experiences. First we will make sure they have a quiet life in their new home with an active daily life and then maybe they start going out more. We simply have to take one day at a time.
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