EU PRO Programme funded by the European Union and the Republic of Serbia
  • Republic of Serbia

Sjenica, 3 December 2020

Every child deserves a reason to smile

Children and young people with disabilities are a particularly vulnerable group of the population as they are often subject to multiple discrimination, inter alia, due to insufficient community support or lack of services provided to these people in the towns they live in, which prevents them from stayin in their community.[1]

However, the Association for Assistance to Children and Persons with Developmental Disabilities "Povetarac" from Sjenica, the only association that provides this type of services in one of the largest municipality in Serbia, has proved that the quality of life and social inclusion of children with disabilities can be improved.

"The children's smiles were worth more than a thousand words on that day," says Jasmina Hodžić from the "Povetarac" Association while describing the reactions of the beneficiaries of the Day Care Centre when the works on arranging the playground and building two summer classrooms in their yard were completed.

Since 2003 when the association was founded, its employees have invested efforts to create a real home for 16 beneficiaries, currently using the services, while the innovations they have introduced in their work with the support of the European Union will further improve the level of inclusive activities they conduct in everyday work. 

The services of the Day Care Centre have been improved by arranging the playground where educational and recreational activities are to be organised and with the participation of children from the neighboring kindergarten "Maslačak" and primary schools will additionally contribute to the social inclusion of children with disabilities.

"This project has significantly contributed to improving the quality of life of children and people with disabilities through social inclusion in peer groups and improving their psychosocial and motor skills," says Jasmina Hodžić. She has underlined the importance of organisation of 60 inclusive creative-educational and sports-recreational workshops that gathered the children from the Day Care Centre, and children from primary and secondary schools. They were all involved in peer groups and developed social ties and friendships outside the centre thus making inclusion enhanced through all its segments.

"The children continued to socialise even when the workshops ended, outside the association, and like all young people, they now communicate mostly through social networks. New friendships have enriched their lives and greatly improved their social inclusion in the community," said Hodžić.

The employees of the Day Care Centre have also gained experience in working with mixed groups, while the students from primary and secondary school were peer educators of children with disabilities. As they in "Povetarac" say, it is especially important that all those who were involved, children from primary and secondary schools, as well as experts engaged in the realisation of the project, showed great interest in continuing these activities in the future.

In addition to this project in Sjenica, the European Union, in cooperation with the Ministry of European Integration, supported projects of civil society organisations aimed at improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in Novi Pazar, Leskovac and Vranje. Special focus was given to children and youth, while the social inclusion of more than 220 people with disabilities (PWD) has been improved through the advancement in services, enabling better living conditions for them and their families, as well as through economic empowerment and increased employability.