Dozens of persons with intellectual difficulties in Novo Sarajevo are motivated to strengthen their identity and improve practical skills and working competences, which is the result of Project “From margin to inclusion” that is implemented by Association “OAZA” within the Project “Meaningful Activism, Knowledgeable Engagement and Responsible Solutions” (MAKERS).
Although Association “Oaza” has had rich experience in working with people with intellectual difficulties since the 1960s, the inaccessible premises of the Association have hindered the activities of its members in the past years. This did not prevent their intention to provide people with intellectual disabilities equal rights and opportunities in the community. The opportunity for this came to them through the MAKERS Project, which is implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) with the support of the Porticus Foundation.
By participating in this Project, Association “Oaza” secured new premises where people with developmental difficulties spend quality time. The new meeting point is the Children’s House of the International Center for Children and Youth of the Municipality of Novo Sarajevo, where creative and educational workshops designed for the growth, development, and self-strengthening of the competences of people with intellectual disabilities have been held in recent months.
“I am happy because I am visiting ‘Oaza’ again. It is close to my home. My friends are great,” said 41 years old N.B. who was not able to visit the Association in the previous years because the premises were located too far. His daily routine is richer since he established contact with his friends.
During the five-month project implementation period, 15 persons with intellectual difficulties from Novo Sarajevo got the chance to participate in workshops that were developed by Association’s psychologists and social workers. The Project engages women and men equally.
Director of Association “Oaza” Samir Halilović, says that other members of the Association who were informed about Project activities through social media, expressed interest to participate in the Project, which is why they often visited workshops to get acquainted with the new Association’s activities.
“Beneficiaries engaged in the Project differ in terms of the degree of intellectual difficulties, age, education, specific possibilities, etc. which demanded specific organization and work dynamics. Therefore, holistic approach was necessary. It is very important to approach each person individually, so that the person can be involved in the planned activities in accordance with his/her individual possibilities, wishes and capacities,” said Halilović.
Implementation of project “From margin to inclusion” encompassed two key phases: education on occupational and creative work – Art-line workshops “Make friends and create”, and education of persons with intellectual difficulties for self-presentation and development of public identity.
In the previous period, more than 15 workshops were held in the creative atmosphere of Children’s House, during which persons with intellectual difficulties made a number of unique products. On this occasion, members had the opportunity to acquire new knowledge on different art techniques and to work with different materials.
Active member of Association “Oaza”, 37 year-old L.Đ. was particularly excited about the creative workshops considering that she has been making decoupage products independently for some time.
“We hang out and have fun. We make all sorts of products. We will have our own exhibition,” said L.Đ. who improved her motivation for self-presentation through work with experts in the Project.
All products that were made during the workshop will be shown at exhibition during 2023, when the persons with intellectual difficulties will present the acquired knowledge to the wider community. Exhibition will be open for all well-intentioned individuals who would like to know more about the possibilities and creations of persons with intellectual difficulties.
“It is really nice to be here, and I make gift cards and decorative bottles. I met new members, while I already knew some of them. I assist some of them on their way to the workshop,” said 26 years-old D.R. with milder intellectual difficulties whose self-presentation significantly progressed during the Project.
Beside the creative workshops, more than 15 trainings were held during which persons with intellectual difficulties learnt techniques on self-presentation and development of public identity. Director of the Association emphasized that it is necessary to encourage members and entice them to present themselves because this increases their self-confidence and gives them motivation for engagement in the local community. He emphasized that identity is an important part of the overall image that each individual has of him/herself, and that is why it is important to provide an adapted program through which people with intellectual disabilities can express their own goals, desires and personality.
With the assistants’ support, workshops were led by two educators – psychologist and social worker. Educator and social worker, Lejla Hreljić-Vučić, who spent the last few months with persons with intellectual difficulties says that she observed progress in users’ self-presentation through dialogue, group discussions and training on public presentation and speaking skills.
“At the beginning of project implementation, in August 2022, we made short videos on self-presentation of members, so we repeated this in October, and we identified progress in their personal presentation. The content of these workshops is dedicated to raising their self-confidence, so they can acquire new knowledge and be ready to face new challenges that life brings them, and thus we contribute to promotion of persons with intellectual difficulties,” said Hreljić-Vučić.
During their work with persons with intellectual difficulties, educators of Association “OAZA”, tried to ensure the confidence of all users and comfortable atmosphere at the workshops, so that all users participate in the work and develop positive interpersonal relations.
“Many users who responded to project engagement indicate their need for engagement, their desire to get to know each other, learn, exchange knowledge and experiences that are often denied to them after formal schooling. The workshops we offered them represent a way for adults with intellectual disabilities to have the opportunity to be equal participants in our society,” Hreljić-Vučić pointed out.
Association “Oaza” emphasizes that by implementing the project “From Margin to Inclusion” they are sending a message to the wider community that people with intellectual disabilities are equal and active citizens of all local communities. This kind of support and inclusion, as the director of the Association Samir Halilović points out, is not only an expression of help and empathetic support, but an example of adequate respect and appreciation of documents that guarantee all the rights of people with intellectual difficulties, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.