In Albania, although disability inclusion is mandated by law, schools are not accessible, and specialized instruction and support are not generally available. As a result, up to 45% of people with disabilities never go to school nationwide; in Pogradec the number is far higher. In most cases, if a family has a child with special needs, that child's primary caregiver is a parent. A small stipend from the government partially offsets the cost of medicine but is insufficient to pay for additional care or activities, or to offset the loss of income. Nehemiah Gateway (NG) Albania is a longtime, trusted partner to these families. It is one of the only places in Pogradec offering services such as speech and physical therapy to children with special needs, free of charge. The Rotary Global Grant-funded Children's Learning Center will expand NG's free services to reach more children with special needs in 2021.
Summer camp for special needs children is held in addition to children's regular therapy appointments for 2 weeks every July. It is highly effective because NG Albania's team already works with the children one on one every week. Both the children and their parents already know and trust the team. While therapy appointments are typically individual, at camp the children participate in carefully supervised group activities with other children like them-an opportunity to have fun, socialize, and make new friends. It is also a chance to develop new skills, including eating meals in groups, playing group games, and even participating in local field trips as appropriate. [Note that although Pogradec is a popular summer tourism destination, many of these children have never visited the area's attractions.]
In addition to being a lot of fun for the children, this camp also offers their primary caregivers a rare opportunity to step back. Because each child has such unique and intensive needs, primary caregivers rarely get to take a break. This is such an opportunity-appealing to them because the NG staff is already familiar, and can be trusted to recognize and meet each child's needs safely and appropriately.
A typical day at camp starts with pickup at each child's home on the NG school bus. After breakfast at the NG campus, the children participate in developmentally appropriate activities and games all morning, in a mix of carefully supervised small and large groups. After a group lunch (typically the biggest meal of the day in Albania) children are taken home on the school bus.
We are requesting $3,500 in District grant matching funds, to go with $1,750 from the Rotary Club of Estes Park, to sponsor a summer camp for children with disabilities in summer, 2021. The grant will fully pay for camp for 30 children for two weeks. Funding will cover staff, student transport, student meals, a local field trip, activities, and camp supplies. Full budget is attached.
NOTE: This is a substantially different summer camp than the Amaro Tan summer camp Rotary Club of Estes Park sponsored 2018- 2020. While Amaro Tan camp focused on at-risk Roma children and is run by teachers from the Amaro Tan School, this project serves children with special needs. It is a different group of children, and the camp will be run by clinicians and social workers from the Children's Learning Center. Goals and objectives of the camp are substantially different, reflecting that this is a completely different project.