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Today
Inclusion 11:53 03 Dec 2021

Useful Сonfectionery: how people with disabilities in Cherkasy region are helped by occupational therapy

December 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. We're talking about an initiative that can be replicated everywhere in Ukraine.

A social bakery Useful Confectionery has started operating in the Cherkasy region; their occupational therapy helps people with disabilities over 18 years. Here they'll be able to study, work, implement their skills; will learn to bake, and thus be able to gain a profession. Children will be able to take part in master classes on making gingerbread, bread, and rolls. Bread and other pastries that will be baked in the confectionery are sold at low prices to vulnerable and less mobile groups. RUBRYKA learned how social confectionery works, why it is especially relevant for adults with disabilities and how this solution can be implemented anywhere in Ukraine.

What is the problem?

Everyone with a disability has the right to work. But in fact, employers don't want and are afraid to take responsibility for the employment of people with disabilities, most often they're hired formally, to ensure quotas, as required by Ukrainian law.

The problem of employment of young people with disabilities who graduate from specialized schools or social centers is particularly acute. Parents who invest all their resources in the rehabilitation of their children bitterly state that everything their children have achieved and learned hasn't been further realized in society. Some dare to create a social business almost exclusively for their child and their closest friends, but most are left alone with their grown children.

The Zolotonosha Center for Social Services has been providing a daycare service for 20 years, where children with disabilities spend time while their parents work. But this service isn't available for people over 18 years. The staff of the center was very worried that their wards lost the skills they had acquired as children, stopped leaving home and communicating with other people. So the idea arose to open a social workshop at the center, a place where adults with disabilities, including mental disabilities, can spend time together, communicate and learn something new.

What is the solution? 

They chose the profile of the workshop, carefully weighing all the pros and cons, guided by the needs not only of people with disabilities but also the community. They chose to bake useful and affordable bread and confectionery. In addition, the center has previously held cooking workshops, and they have always been in demand among both children and adults. Social bakery Useful Confectionery became a joint project of Cherkasy Regional State Administration, in particular, the Department of Social Protection, Zolotonosha City Council, and the Charitable Foundation VPLYV FUND.

According to Liudmyla Nelina, director of the Zolotonosha Center for Social Services, the social center has been cooperating with VPLYV FUND for several years, thanks to which they've opened an inclusive Malvy pottery, a rehabilitation center, and a sewing workshop. So, when the foundation announced a grant competition to open social workshops in 2020, the center immediately submitted a project to it, which became one of the winners. A year has passed since the application was submitted. During this time, with the help of the city council, they repaired the premises that were already in the Center, purchased the necessary equipment at the expense of the Fund. Finally, in October 2021, the unique social bakery began work.

How does it work?

Useful Confectionery is a place where the perception of people with disabilities is changing. Thanks to the bakery, people with disabilities have the opportunity to attend regular classes and workshops under the supervision of a professional confectioner and psychologist. They spend time usefully, learn new skills and socialize. Working in the workshop, people with disabilities become more confident, and society demonstrates a willingness to accept and understand them. So far, classes have been organized for two groups: one for children with disabilities and the other one for adults. Over time, the number of such groups will increase.

"When we were just planning the bakery," recalls Liudmila Nelina, "we thought that the children would be interested only in the final coloring of gingerbread. But in practice, it turned out that they like the whole process: from kneading the dough to cleaning because that's how they feel like adults and do things that they're not entrusted with at home. Classes are held in a trusting atmosphere and end with a friendly tea party with freshly baked delicacies."

In parallel, they work on baking bread. They started with simpler baking of bread weighing 650 grams of high-grade flour and first-grade flour. They calculated the cost, which was approved at the meeting of the executive committee, the recipe was agreed upon. The most important thing is that bread doesn't contain any stabilizers, preservatives, leavening agents, and contains only natural products. In addition, the bakery's products are certified, i.e. fully standardized.

Did they succeed?

100 loaves of bread were baked daily in the confectionery, then were delivered to the elderly. By the end of November, volumes had increased to 300 products per day. Soon people will be able to buy bread right in the center with special cards.

"Creating such a bakery will help relieve some social tensions because the opportunity to get bread at a social price is a manifestation of concern for the elderly, people with disabilities, vulnerable groups. In addition, the bakery will be a place where you can express yourself, create a healthy product, communicate," says Liudmila Nelina.

It's especially gratifying that the residents of the city are very positive about the initiative and want to help. The local entrepreneur even offered to set aside a shelf in his shop for social bread, so there will soon be more outlets.

Even more useful solutions!

Although the bakery has just started its work, the project development plans are already 3 years ahead (a prerequisite for participants in VPLYV FUND grant programs); yes, the number of visitors will increase, and 2 people with disabilities will be employed in the bakery after training. Based on the results of their work, they will compile a methodical manual "Different forms of occupational therapy in daycare centers for 18+ people with disabilities," which will be available in other communities of Ukraine. The range of products will also expand, the bakery will bake cakes and other confectionery products, including dietary ones, without sugar and gluten. For people who have dietary restrictions due to their health, the opportunity to buy products from the diet line is extremely important; they used to travel 35 km to Cherkasy to get them.

As Vita Mykolaiuk, Chairperson of the Board of VPLYV FUND, noted, Useful Confectionery is a great example of how one social project can solve several community requests:

  • for people with disabilities, it's the opportunity to learn new skills and socialize;
  • for community residents, it's the opportunity to buy products from the diet line and get new jobs;
  • for vulnerable groups, it's the opportunity to buy bakery products at a social price.

"It was in Zolotonosha that we saw the symbiosis of the authorities, the Center's team, and philanthropists, which allows us to implement such important projects. We dream that such initiatives will spread throughout Ukraine!" adds Vita Mykolaiuk.

Social assistance centers exist throughout Ukraine. Each of them can learn from the experience of Zolotonosha and help former children and now adults with disabilities to develop and work. Useful Confectionery proves that such initiatives are necessary and, most importantly, that they work.

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