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DCWW - good practices from Kara Bobowski, Italy

Inclusion of people with disabilities through volunteering and occupation: good practices of social Cooperative Kara Bobowski - Italy

For the European project DCWW - Day Centres Without Walls, the social cooperative Kara Bobowski presented a good practice through an international webinar about Inclusive Mobilities. In this article, KB wants to share the good practices inside the organisation. 

The Kara Bobowski Social Cooperative manages, among other services, a day and residential centre for people with medium-severe disabilities, entitled "La Libellula” (that means “The Dragonfly") which since 2005 has found a new and renovated headquarters in Modigliana.

This service welcomes about 15 adults with different types of disabilities in a family environment, being the majority of residential users. Among them, a young adult with autism discovered his passion for music and was welcomed into the local choir of the Alpini. Formed in 1872, the Alpini proper are the oldest active mountain infantry corps in the world, originally created to protect the northern mountain borders of Italy with France, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Switzerland. They defended the homeland, with their values ​​and civic spirit. Today, defending the same values, they welcome in their choral staff a different but active voice that finds in this group and in the uniform that brings a sense of usefulness and belonging.

Furthermore, the socio-occupational laboratory entitled “La Coccinella” (that means “the ladybug”) has been active since 2003, created to accommodate disadvantaged people from the Modigliana community who would hardly find a space in the traditional labor market.

The protected context and the calm and safe environment allow them to see their skills and creativity enhanced, with a positive impact on self-esteem.

In the workshop, solidarity crafts are made mainly in leather and fabric, with particular attention to the potential of recycled materials such as paper and PVC. Most of the material is donated by producers and artisans who give their scraps to offer them a new life in the hands of our different collaborators.

Each object is the result of the skill, imagination and creativity of our special artisans and is enriched with the values ​​of social solidarity.

Since 2018, in the main square of Modigliana, the Cooperative manages a small shop selling these products, where our users learn to manage money, to sell and to relate to the community and customers. An opportunity for occupation, personal growth, autonomy and self-esteem, development of skills and creation of networks and contacts, thus increasing their inclusion in the community.

The presence on the territory and the support of the Cooperative to various vulnerable groups is also felt:

  • In the assistance and educational support for minors with disabilities during school hours: the figure of the support teacher is provided by the Italian Government for a few hours, and completed with the presence of a specialized educator from the Cooperative.
  • In the assistance and educational support service to the disabled person in his/her daily life, for the well-being and as a relief to the care burdens of family members.
  • In support of setting up, in 2007, a new type B Agricultural-Social Cooperative called "Abbraccio Verde" (that means “green hug”) which operates in the green care and agri-food sectors and is aimed at the integration of disadvantaged people.

In Italy, there are two types of cooperatives: the type A welfare cooperative and the type B one which provides for the work placement of disadvantaged people.

Since 1997, Kara Bobowski has opened its activity to Europe, in the belief that the best ideas always arise from confrontation with others.

Active in different types of projects at local, national and European level, the constant and common concern to all is the answer to the needs of the territory and, mainly, the inclusion of the most disadvantaged.

 

VOLUNTEERING

Locally, the Cooperative, in addition to welcoming the users identified by the social services in its daily centers, also gives the opportunity to other people with disabilities or disadvantaged to volunteer at the "La Coccinella" Social-Occupational Laboratory, developing skills, donating their time and increasing their self-esteem and socialization.

At European level, it organised inclusive projects for sending and hosting young volunteers with disabilities or fewer opportunities, like the examples of Ewa from Poland, a blind girl that stayed 12 months in Modigliana, and Cecilie from Denmark that, despites her physical disability, passed 6 months in KB.

In 2017, the “EVS 20-20” project, funded by the Erasmus+ Programme, welcomed 8 young Europeans (from Portugal, Lithuania and Bulgaria) with disabilities or disadvantages who have served from 2 weeks to 40 days in Modigliana. They donated their smiles, skills and time to "La Coccinella" and to our "Punto X" afternoon center with cultural activities presenting their countries, cultures and languages. In the same project, the Cooperative sent 2 disadvantaged young people from the Forlì area to Bulgaria for 2 weeks, developing activities with children.

After the success and good results of this project, the Cooperative raised the challenge with the 2018 “IncluSVE” project. During this project, we welcomed 12 young volunteers with disabilities in Modigliana for 3 weeks, from Portugal, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden. To the activities of the previous year we added the collaboration of these young people in the local project "Itinerari di Comunità", about Accessible, Participatory and Inclusive Tourism. The young people were able to contribute with their skills and opinions regarding the accessibility in the territory.

In addition, 8 local young people with disabilities or fewer opportunities had the opportunity to spend 3 weeks with our partners in Portugal, Poland, Sweden and Lithuania. They donated their time and skills in activities with children, young people and people with disabilities, bringing Italian culture to other European countries.

These projects were possible thanks to the contribution that allows the support of an accompanying person for the entire duration of the experience. This figure completes the volunteer where he/she needs, either at the assistance level, at the linguistic or organisational level. Some of our volunteers have even embraced this opportunity without an accompanying person, but relying on the reinforced support of the organisation that has welcomed them.

 

EMPLOYMENT AND INTERNSHIPS

As required by Italian law, the Kara Bobowski Cooperative, with currently about 50 workers, also has 2 certified “protected category” among its staff, and other workers with fewer opportunities.

According with the Italian law, the concept of “protected category” refers to all those people (suffering from some psycho-physical disability) who, in the context of the labor market, enjoy particular protections for their insertion into it because a certain number of jobs must be dedicated to them (law n.68 of 12 March 1999).

Furthermore, in collaboration with local training bodies, it welcomes some figures in situations of fragility for more or less short periods of training. But we don't stop there!

The Cooperative has been coordinating internship projects abroad since 2005. Today, through the VET action of the Erasmus+ Programme, KB manages every year the sending of young graduates on traineeships in various European countries.

The last two projects (“Made in Europe” and “Made in Europe+“), aimed at a total of 199 new graduates, saw the participation of 33 young people with disabilities or fewer opportunities, sent abroad for 2 weeks.

The internships took place in the social, agricultural and hotel sectors, depending on the students' study field or their preferences. The projects involved partners from Poland, Malta, Slovenia and Lithuania.

These are highly inclusive experiences, designed and organised according to the specific needs and skills of the young participants, in order to make them grow in self-esteem and autonomy and to enrich their professional and human background.

Volunteering has an intrinsic characteristic of participation, of giving and donating something to the other, of compromising oneself with the community. This leads to a sense of belonging, to an inclusion and level of normality that these people often do not find in other activities "made for them".

We believe that the European dimension that we succeed to bring to our services and to the projects we manage increases awareness of diversity, tolerance and respect, a sense of belonging and active participation in something great, in a community that welcomes and gives space for everyone's skills.

Our goal is inclusion; our methodology is the personalisation of the experience and bring to light the characteristics and abilities of each one: because Diversity is Richness!

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