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, many people with disabilities never go to school nationwide; in Pogradec the number is even 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.
Summer camp for special needs children will be held in addition to children's regular therapy appointments for 3 weeks during the summer. 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.
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 $3,400 in District grant matching funds, to go with $1,700 from the Rotary Club of Estes Park, to sponsor a summer camp for children with disabilities in summer, 2023. The grant will pay for camp for 30 children for three weeks. Funding will cover staff, student transport, student meals, a local field trip, activities, and camp supplies. A budget is attached.
NOTE: This is a different summer camp than the summer camp the Rotary Club of Estes Park sponsored in 2022 (District Grant P-4246). While the 2022 summer 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 NG Children's Learning Center. Goals and objectives of the camp are also substantially different.