Their Joy is a Blessing to Us All

Their Joy is a Blessing to Us All

Aug 15, 2018

Nehemiah Gateway Albania’s Social and Medical Improvement team held their annual summer camp for children with disabilities and special needs on July 2-13. The camp took place at the Nehemiah Gateway campus at Buçimas, which is enclosed for safety and has green spaces and play equipment for all ages. The 25 children who participated enjoyed outdoor play and open-air activities together every day.Thanks to generous donors like you, this camp was offered completely free of charge.

This summer camp is a favorite event for NG staff. Says NG Albania director Herolinda Shkullaku, “We all (social workers, volunteers, and parents of children) are more than happy to give these children the opportunity to enjoy childhood with games, toys, and laughter. Their joy is a blessing to us all.” Our entire humanitarian team-- nurse, physical therapist, speech therapist, nurses’ aides, and social workers—works together with the children, who, with a variety of disabilities, need one-on-one support and supervision. Many of the children already see NG staff through our home visitation program or at our clinic during the year. This creates a high level of trust and comfort both for families, who are the primary caregivers,and the children themselves.

On a typical day, children are picked up at home by NG’s school bus. After arriving at camp, they wash their hands and eat breakfast together. After breakfast, they do a developmentally appropriate activity—for example, introductions, puzzles, or building with blocks. This is usually followed by group games that support healthy interaction and imaginative activities, like charades and free play at the playground. The activities are a mix of individual, small-group, and large-group, with the mix determined by the specific needs of each child. The children love playing together, and Gladiola Alarupi, interim director of Social and Medical Improvement at NG, reports that the children particularly like “my favorite game,” where they get to choose what they want to play. After three activities, it is time to wash hands and eat lunch. After lunch, NG takes them all home.

In Albania, although disability inclusion is mandated by law, public facilities such as schools are not accessible, and specialized instruction and support aren’t generally available. Children with disabilities or special needs mostly stay at home with family members as caregivers. They love coming to NG summer camp because it is one of their few opportunities to spend time with other children, away from home.

Seven-year-old Drini, pictured above, has Down Syndrome, and his experience of camp is typical. His mother, Merita, reports that he is very happy during camp. He can’t wait to go to camp in the morning, and when he comes home every day, she says, he is bursting to tell her all about the day’s games, activities, and experiences. “These kids, even though they have problems, they can express very well if they like something or not. I am grateful to NG for the opportunity that they give to our kids and I can hardly find words to describe my thankfulness,” she says.