Winter 2004 (12.4)
Dreaming about Possibilities for their Future
Above: Misir Mardanov, Azerbaijani Minister
of Education, helped launch a book at International Public Awareness
Day for Children with Disabilities (December 3) which will be
given to all fourth grade school children. Leslie Harnish (third
person from left), World Vision's Program Manager for Children
(and the wife of the U.S. Ambassador) helped to launch this campaign.
We want to live... to live together
with you... This was the message of the World Vision Public Awareness
Campaign promoting integration of children with disabilities
into every day society.
International Day of Disabled Persons, December 3, was proclaimed
by the United Nations General Assembly on October 14th 1992.
The annual observance of the Day aims to increase awareness and
understanding of dissability issues and trends, and to mobilize
supportfor practical action at all levels, by, with and for persons
with disabilities. In Baku, banners in Azeri language were hung
across two busy streets to help bring awareness to this issue.
It read: "We want to live, learn, love... together with
you!" Celebrate the International Day of Disabled.
Public Awareness Day for Children with Disabilities was designated
as December 3, 2004. The day began when the hosts of the popular
TV talk show "Sabah" (Morning) spoke with Leslie Harnish,
World Vision's Program Manager for Children (and wife of the
U.S. Ambassador) and Almaz Ahmadova, Project Manger for Children
with Disabilities. Together they addressed the issue of children's
disabilities as it relates to the situation in Azerbaijan and
how important it is to engage children with such conditions as
Cerebral Palsy (some cases), Down Syndrome, autism, heart problems,
brain trauma (which has caused mental delay), and club feet,
in normal life and offer them educational opportunities so they
can participate as much as possible in activities with other
At this stage, much of the thrust of World Vision's work is to
create the vision for these children by challenging adults to
believe in the future for their children. Videos featuring "Day
of the Disabled" messages were flashed on six large advertising
screens in pedestrian areas around Baku for a whole week. Three
major TV stations showed a one-minute Public Service Announcement
(PSA) by World Vision showing children with disabilities "participating
in life". Banners with the same message were prominently
displayed on two of Baku's busiest streets.
Left: After their parade through the center of town,
the children went to McDonald's which treated them with Happy
Three local NGOs (non-governmental
organizations) - part of World Vision's Children's Coalition
- organized a parade for children from nine institutions
and organizations. They gathered with their parents and walked
together in downtown Baku. This was to demonstrate that such
children have the right to live, smile and celebrate just like
other children do. The parade ended at McDonald's at center of
town where Maksud Mirzayev, Managing Director of McDonald's,
treated 150 kids to "Happy Meals" hamburgers and refreshments.
World Vision US donated crayons for all of the children. The
children were thrilled to be at McDonalds. It was a huge treat
for them, as many of their families could not afford to take
them there. It was remarkable to see so many children with disabilities
at Mc Donald's right alongside the usual customers.
A Book Launch also took place with the Minister of Education
Misir Mardanov. The book, "Where Dreams Come True",
by American author Linda Lee Ratto, features the story of a disabled
little girl who can't walk. But with the love of her family,
she becomes a very productive person in society and finds a way
to invent a wheel chair. The book has been translated into Azeri
so that every fourth grade school child in Azerbaijan can have
a personal copy.
Left: Lindo Lee Rotto's book, "Where Dreams Come
True" in Azeri.
There were also two
exhibitions held that day which highlighted the talents of children
with disabilities. These exhibitions - one, in an after-school
activity center and the other in an orphanage - demonstrated
how creative all children are, especially when given the chance
to show their talents.
The after-school activity center director, Leyla Gaiti has made
a big effort to invite children with disabilities into the center
so they can engage in activity with normally developing children.
"Giving children the opportunity to come together, to create
and play together has proved to be very successful, and the parents
and children are delighted for this new opportunity for the children
to live life more fully," says Gaiti.
The director of the orphanage has invited normally developing
children from a school on the same property to share craft and
creative time together with children with disabilities.
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