(left) Sachiko Kareki (UNV Programme Analyst/Inclusive Growth/UNDP); (right) Martina Vavrova (UNV intern for Gender and Advocacy/UNFPA). (June Kashio, 2012)

"All Together" to promote social inclusion and volunteering

In Prishtina, and under motto "All Together", an event took place to promote the importance of social inclusion through respect, acceptance and tolerance. It was organized by two UN Volunteers in partnership with the local NGO HandiKOS, an organization which supports people living with disabilities. 45 children, some with disabilities  participated in this event to learn more about volunteering, social inclusion and ecology.

45 children, some with disabilities  participated in this event to learn more about volunteering, social inclusion and ecology. In Kosovo, despite strong laws on rights of people with disabilities, approximately 150,000 individuals living with disabilities suffer from exclusion and discrimination in most aspects of their everyday life, including health, education, employment, accessibility, civic participation and legal matters.

This exclusion also affects their families and primary caregivers. During the event, the children introduced themselves and played games, and were divided into groups to participate in educational tasks and activities to learn more about volunteering, social inclusion and ecology. When these tasks were completed, the children received certificates of completion.

Another purpose of the event "All Together" was to promote volunteering. Seven local and international volunteers participated in the project. Vlora, a student of English language at University of Pristina, said it was the first time she volunteered. "To me, all people are equal here but still disabled children need to have more opportunities to socialize with others", she mentioned.

The work of the volunteers was essential. They accompanied children during all games and activities and translated documents and material for the event. Gökhan Balaban,  Pristina University professor and one of the volunteers, appreciated that the children had the opportunity to be physically active because it is important for their overall health and is not always sufficiently covered by schools.

"I like that children with special needs play together with other kids. There is need to bring them together, and make them feel part of society", said Merita, one volunteer. Arian, another volunteer, added: "Sometimes when you don't see disabled children you forget they exist. I'm really grateful to have taken part in it."
The event ended with a group picture and a loud cheer but also with an unexpected surprise: the reading of poems and a traditional dance performed by some children. A toolkit of the games on promoting volunteering, social inclusion and ecology, prepared by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme were handed to  HandiKOS, with the plan to continue using these games to promote social inclusion and volunteering.  "These children are lucky because when we were children we didn't have chances like this", stated an old man passing by. And it won't end here for sure.
Prishtina, Taukhbahce Park, Kosovo