One to One Children’s Fund was founded in the aftermath of the war in Kosovo in 2000.
When we leapt in to respond to the traumatic aftermath of the war in Kosovo, we didn’t know exactly where this work would take us. We couldn’t have foreseen the impact that our counselling training would have nor that it would create a sustainable model of child care that will benefit vulnerable and disabled children for years to come.
In response to the terrible suffering of the people of Kosovo, made worse by the extremely limited mental health infrastructure in the early 2000s, we strove to provide high-quality, holistic social care to children. We set up a crisis centre in Northern Albania, providing post-trauma counselling to children who needed help processing the horrors they have witnessed. We remained in the community as they returned to Kosovo and established 2 counselling centres. Over the 10 years, we work to establish a new professional network of counsellors to support children and their parents with trauma healing and building their resilience.
As the country recovered from the conflict, the UN and the EU identified the care of children with disabilities and special needs as area of high priority. Many of the 20,000 children with disabilities in Kosovo experience exclusion, stigma and isolation in their everyday lives. Despite developments in the provision of social and family services since the end of the war, these were still woefully inadequate. Our counselling centres found an important, new function in their communities as day care centres for disabled and vulnerable children.
Working with local organisation, PEMA, there are 4 centres e equipped and trained to provide psychosocial, education and recreational activities for children living with cognitive and physical disabilities as well as vulnerable children caught up in circumstances of domestic violence or neglect. Vulnerable children build the skills and confidence they need to navigate and integrate into mainstream society. Our long term goal is to improve Kosovo’s acceptance of children with disabilities. Parent-support groups have been set up to teach parents more about disabilities and empower them to fight for their children’s rights. PEMA staff also organise individual and group work to help the children maximise their potential. National activities such as open days, special events and national round tables, increase awareness among the wider community on the needs of vulnerable children and helps to reduce stigma around disabilities.
We are incredibly proud of our partnership with PEMA and work in Kosovo. In line with our key organisational aim, we have now put this work into local hands and leadership. One to One Children’s Fund continues to have a close relationship with PEMA management, but they are an independently functioning organisation and the operation of the centres is now conducted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare as well as the local municipalities.
The project provided counselling to over 2,500 children affected by the war.
Child psychotherapy has now become a recognised profession in Kosovo.
Our day care centres fill urgent gaps in social services and have improved development opportunities and life skills for children with special needs.
We employed and trained 14 local people to work as trauma councillors.
Approximately 10,000 clients benefited from high-quality counselling services.
One to One set up a series of psychological counselling training modules, which led to the establishment of a comprehensive 18-month One to One counselling course run by the University of Zagreb and Society for Psychological assistance trainers.
“There have been considerable improvements in the wellbeing of vulnerable children using the services of the One to One Counselling Centres. Significant progress is noted with regard to behavioural and emotional difficulties, as well as problems in school and in the home.”
- (2009) Dr Bajram Maxhumi
A BRIGHTER FUTURE FOR Genta…
Genta (aged 7) has cerebral palsy. When One to One started to work with her, Genta found it difficult to walk, was unable to speak, communicating primarily through gesture and little screams. One of the reasons Genta was so isolated was that she lives on the 4th floor of a building without a lift. Her family did not have access to a wheelchair or any other walking aids. Her parents had little idea of how to help Genta and experienced the stigma associated with having a child with disabilities.
The work with Genta included giving her exercises to increase her mobility and speech therapy, and helping her parents understand how they can continue with this at home. It also included attending group sessions, in which she had a chance to socialise as well as develop other skills, including drawing. This has helped her become more mobile, articulate and able to interact with her peers.
An important aspect of the work has been helping her parents develop new ways of relating to Genta and reflect on their experience of caring for her. Genta has been able to make such good progress that there are plans for her to start attending school.