Community development, Social inclusion

TOGETHER - In nature differences don't count!

TOGETHER for social inclusion, acceptance, and welfare of children with disabilities in the natural environment of the oldest park on the Balkan Peninsula – Vitosha Mountain.

Creators

Who is behind this?

Ivanka Todorova

Together We Can Foundation

https://www.facebook.com/TogetherWeCan.bg

Bulgaria

Who is joining forces?

Vitosha Nature Park Directorate

http://www.park-vitosha.org

Bulgaria


Idea

Idea pitch

Together We Can ensure social acceptance and bring joy and hope into the lives of children with disabilities and their families. Our project aims to achieve inclusion and assimilation through mutual activities TOGETHER with typical children - skiing, mushing, horseback riding, picnic in nature, dancing, playing, and exploring in the beautiful natural environment. We believe that trough developing a sense of community we can fight isolation, social stigmas and achieve inclusion and respect.

Where will your project idea take place?

Vitosha Nature Park and the rural area around it, West Bulgaria

What is the specific societal challenge faced by this region?

Our project aims at ensuring social acceptance, joy, and hope into the lives of disabled children and their families. By organizing mutual activities with typical children, we will address the most important societal challenges in the city – disconnection and social stigmas. We believe that by encouraging play and fun activities between children with disabilities and typical children, we can plant the seed of acceptance of differences and unbiasedness in the generation to come. By spending time together in nature, the parents can also establish good friendships and eventually build up a community.

Who are you doing it for?

We do it for all children, children with disabilities and typical children, who TOGETHER are our future "tomorrow". One target group includes children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, sensory, cognitive, behavioral disorders and rare genetic diseases. Another target group includes children without disabilities who will learn acceptance and respect. All the children will be involved in social, communicative, and entertainment activities in small groups, in the natural environment of the Vitosha Nature Park on weekly basis. For the duration of the project, we envisage to cover about 600 children.
We do it for their families who will be involved in a community to discuss ideas and share experiences.

How do you plan to get there?

Our main focus is socialization, interaction, communication, and building a community. The project seeks to expand our extensive experience with activities aiming at inclusion and assimilation of children with disabilities.
For the purposes of the project, we will create a calendar of activities, which will be distributed through our information channels. Every week there will be a different activity and the participation of the children will be coordinated in advance by a coordinator in order to form groups of 10-15 children with almost equal participation of the two target groups. Special educators and other specialists will take part in the development of the activities in order to adapt them to the needs of the “special” children and make them as educational and informative as possible. By organizing four activities per month, we will be able to perform up to 60 activities for the entire period of the project. The activities will take place in natural environment in the Vitosha Park and include: familiarization with the flora and fauna of Vitosha in a natural way and through sensory input, horseback riding and horse therapy sessions, mutual art, painting, pot making, and decoration sessions, picnics, dancing lessons, exploration in the forest, climbing, skiing, basic mountaineering, bird voice recognition, mountain orienteering, etc.

What are the expected results?

1. Establishing of emotional connection and a sense of community.
2. Positive and qualitative changes in the attitudes of the society on a larger scale.
3. Introduction and establishment of new models of interaction in the society and overcoming the existing stigmas, labels, and stereotypes. Better learn the facts instead of myths!
4. New friendships and happy children.
5. Improvement of cognitive, sensory, communication, social, etc. skills of the special needs and disadvantaged children.
6. Popularization of several locations in Vitosha, which are accessible and suitable for children with impaired eyesight and limited physical activity.
7. Building a level of confidence based on positive experience.
8. Easier and better integration in the kindergarten and at school.

How does your idea strengthen active citizenship at a local and community level?

Our idea addresses important social issues and by shedding more light on them, we aim to improve the quality of life of the disabled children and their parents, make them visible and more confident to express their needs and objectives as a community. We aim to achieve more active engagement on behalf of institutions, NGOs, and organizations in order our example to be followed in other towns with similar issues in the country. Our network of specialists and volunteers are ready to consult and advise other active groups of citizens for the implementation of similar activities on a larger scale. The inclusion of a state institution, such as the Park Directorate in the project is the beginning of a fruitful cooperation between the NGO sector and the local government.

Why is this idea important to you?

Vanya Todorova is a Master of Special Education and has experience and the qualifications acquired in an international project in horse therapy for special needs children.
Anna Yoncheva is a photographer working actively in campaigns to make the “special” children visible through photo exhibitions. Her idea is the construction and installation of a combined swing for typical children and children in wheelchairs at the playgrounds.
Maria Vasileva has extensive experience in attracting volunteers for various causes on Vitosha for marking of trails, repairing park infrastructure etc.
Silvia Arangelova has extensive knowledge and experience in organization and implementation of educational activities related to nature and biodiversity.

€ 35000,-

Total budget

€ 35000,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

Major expenses

Costs for staff and team of the project and additional experts - 15000 euro
Therapeutic and fun activities with horses - 6000 euro
Other trainings courses in the mountains (skiing, climbing, mushing, etc.) - 8000 euro
Conference hall rent for few events - 2000 euro
Transport for children - 3000 euro
Office expenses - 1000 euro

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

Please, let us know which parts of our idea you consider strong and which ones need improvement and elaboration. We will be glad to get any kind of feedback. In your city, is there also a problem with the integration of the special needs children?

Team

Togetherwecan

maria.larchvasileva@gmail.com

Idea created on April 19, 2021
Last edit on April 26, 2021

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