Today's story is about personal and collective involvement, for the well-being of the community
Today's story is about personal and collective involvement, for the well-being of the community, when and where it is needed. This well-being can roll down the hill, getting bigger and bigger.
Alina Dina-Tanasie is a biochemistry major, and she decided on a second major, psychology. Right now she teaches children with special needs and is the president of the Authenticity, Variety, and Acceptance Association in the town of Ramnicu Valcea. She is a mother of two, one of them on the spectrum. At first, she wanted to get to know the special needs of her boy, in order to help him. We asked her how that went:
“My boy was my motivation. He motivated and challenged me to discover more and more ways to support him. I wanted very much to help him. At first I couldn't believe this was happening to me. I was in total denial, until I realized that this was reality, and if I don't do something for my child, aside from regular therapy, I won't be able to live with myself. I needed to know and learn more, and I read, I learned how to work with him, I had the cooperation of therapists he was working with. I asked them to let me see what they do there, then I started purchasing my own materials, and little by little I came back to my first love, psychology. I was driven by the wish to do something for others, when I saw how much I was able to do for my own child. I told myself I could surely do the same for others. I had all the learning materials right at home with me. Five years ago, I was waiting for my kid to come out of a therapy session, and I thought that we should have a single center to benefit children that were going to various places around town. My dream was to have a single place to go for child services.”
Five years later, Alina's dream became reality. Very soon, the town of Ramnicu Valcea will be opening the Psychosomatic Multifunctional Center, aimed specifically at special needs children. There they will enjoy services such as psychological, emotional, and physical recover, which our guest hopes will restore balance and tranquility for the families:
“This center wants to offer support for parents and their children with disabilities in our county, which supposes first of all a correct evaluation of children, counseling for parents, workshops with families with both regular and special needs children. We have kinetotherapy, speech therapy, and 3C therapy. This kind of therapy focuses on concentration, awareness, and coordination. A child enrolled in this program becomes autonomous physically and mentally, becomes better coordinated and focused, better adapted to their environment. This makes their recovery much better.”
According to Alina Dina-Tanasie, in the entire region of Oltenia, in the 2019-2020 school year, almost 7,700 special needs children and almost 1,500 children with disabilities were enrolled. The number dropped by over 4% as compared to the previous year, because of complications with integration in the educational system, she said. The pandemic years have made the situation worse. She wants the treatment center to be able to easier accommodate the special children in schools and communities as a whole. Here she is telling us about it:
“We welcome with open arms children with any kind of disabilities, physical or psychological, such as children relegated to a wheelchair, or children with autism, Down syndrome, or delayed mental development. We also have speech therapy services, which we also offer to regular children with speech difficulties, who are welcome to join the special needs kids.”
We asked Alina what parents can expect from the center:
“There is no shame in calling for help, to say that you cannot cope. A parent of a child with disabilities has a very hard time. First of all, it is the initial shock in itself. After denial comes a kind of depression, then indignation, such as the question 'Why is this happening to me? What did we do to deserve this?'. Then, little by little, when we start to ask questions, answers emerge, and, if we pay attention, people come around to help us. This is the first step, in fact, this is the way to do better for ourselves and to accept the child. And, very importantly, it is the way to accept ourselves as parents of disabled children.”
Alina is not the only one in making reality of her dream to help special needs children. In her town of Ramnicu Valcea she has one of 20 community foundations in the country. The actions of these foundations, born out of the generosity and will of people to change their communities, bring to life projects in education, health, culture, and the environment. The foundations understand better the local needs and opportunities, and they aim to create bridges between donors and causes, between needs and solutions. This was the case when Alina Dina-Tanasie wanted to set up her multifunctional center:
“The foundation helped us a lot at first. They were a sort of guardian angel for us, they supported us a lot initially, and they believed in our project. The Valcea Community Foundation are our brothers, and with their help we reached out to an association which believes in us, and supported us, and due to their help we are here, doing all the work and running our projects as well as we do.”
Since the time in 2008 when the first community foundations were set up in Romania, dozens of millions of lei were directed towards thousands of projects for the betterment of local communities. The multifunctional center in Ramnicu Valcea for special needs children is just one of these many projects.