How a social project helps young people with disabilities to have a better life

by Irina Gotisan-Sotnic

UNDP Moldova supports social entrepreneurship, withd 500 printed canvas bags recently ordered.

When the gate creaked, Palma, the dog, started to bark and begun to wag her tail as a sign of disturbance. Her comrades — the poultry — are running along the yard making a great noise, while her master, Mihai, is welcoming us and confess that she’s a devoted guard for over a year. She was abandoned, and he, knowing what it means to not belong to no one, took her to his household.

Mihai Grecu, a beneficiary of Keystone Moldova, working in his household.

We go into the house. Next to the stove, with some canvas pouches, is Maria, Mihai’s wife. The spouses have met several years ago at the Psycho-neurological Placement Center for People with Disabilities (adults) from the village of Badiceni, Soroca district. He was working at the bakery and grocery store, and Maria at the tailoring workroom.

After Mihai and Maria decided to marry, Keystone Moldova supported them to leave the institution and to adapt to life in the community. Now the youngsters, who have never felt the warm of the parents, finally feel the joy of having a family, especially because their first child must appear soon.

Maria Grecu, a beneficiary of Keystone Moldova, while is sewing the cloth scrips.

Now the spouses live in the village of Lapusna, Hincesti district, renting a house. In the neighborhood, they have their own house, procured by Keystone Moldova and which is under reconstruction. Mihai is working hard, every day, to provide comfort for his family, being helped with different donations he receives. He learned about house keeping only on vacations when he was taken by the teachers or nannies at their home.

The spouses Mihai and Maria Grecu in their house received as a donation and which now is under reconstruction.

Besides building their home or working at their temporary household, Mihai and Maria spend time sewing canvas scripts.

Maria Grecu, a beneficiary of Keystone Moldova.
Maria tells us that she learned to sew since school: “I learned at school in Gagauzia, there was tailoring workroom and I went there to learn. After finishing the 10th grade, I went to the boarding school from the village of Badiceni, Soroca. There was tailoring workroom too and I went there to work. I sewed bedclothes, repaired different clothes, and then, when I came here in this village, I started to make these scripts.”

For Mihai, the basting is a new occupation, and together with his wife, they now have a job which helps them to earn money. He is so dedicated that he knows every detail and every stage of the making a scrip.

Mihai Grecu, a beneficiary of Keystone Moldova.
“For example, the handle before to be sewed should be 80 cm in length, 5–6 cm in width and after it is sewed is 2.5–3 cm wide. The scrip, the whole canvas should have 88 cm, and when it is sewed it should be 44 cm in length and in width about 36. To make a scrip I need about 2 or 3 hours: to tailor and to sew. For example, I baste the scrip and Maria make the handles and sew them. If we dedicate all our time for this occupation, then, during a week, we can make a hundred pieces.”

For a person with disabilities, it is not easy at all to have a decent living without any support. Even though Mihai and Maria have a small pension and during the summer are preparing canned for the cold season, and they have some poultry and are selling some eggs, it is quite difficult for them to manage for a decent life.

Nevertheless, the couple seems to be very optimistic and content that they do not live anymore in a specialized institution and that they have shelter and a job that allows living a decent life. The activity that Maria and Mihai are involved in is supported by EcoVox, a project initiated by Keystone Moldova. The aim of the project is to support the integration of people with intellectual disabilities and their parents into the labor market, as well as to support different social services in the communities by relocating the profit to these services.

Maria and Mihai are sewing canvas scrips in the framework of EcoVox initiative, organized by Keystone Moldova, that supports social entrepreneurship.

These activities take place for two years, and now there are seven people involved: five people with disabilities and two parents who have children with disabilities in their care. For the time being, the number of scrips made per a year is around 1500–2000 pieces and they are ordered by non-governmental organizations or are made to be sold to tourists.

People who sew these canvas bags are paid 10 MDL per unit, net income, and weekly a person can sew between 50 and 100 pieces, so depending on their level of involvement, their salary also increases. People who are involved in the sewing of canvas bags have first completed a training course.

The EcoVox’s activities began two years ago and till now seven people are involved.

Nicolae Ciocan, the administrative director of Keystone Moldova, explains in detail what is the process of making a scrip: the cloth is cut in a special way and must be of a certain size. Then the rolls of cloth are sent to the beneficiaries of the project, who are basting and sewing the canvas bags. When the bags are done they arrive at the Keystone Moldova office again and is printed the drawing requested by the ordering customer. Nicholas emphasizes how important this project is for the beneficiaries, but also for those who use their services.

The number of canvas scrips sewn per year is around 1500–2000, and the customers are the non-governmental organizations.
Nicolae Ciocan, the administrative director of Keystone Moldova.
“Our client needs to know and we explain to them, that besides the price they are paying, the client benefits twice: he/she receives the product and is satisfied with it, but also the money paid is used for a social cause. Respectively, a person who is sewing has a source of income and the profit goes to develop other social services for other people with disabilities. These people have an income and pay taxes, and they feel better that they do not depend only on some allowances but can contribute to the community and can earn their daily bread by their own work.”

UNDP Moldova supports such social initiatives. Recently, through the “Enhancing democracy in Moldova through inclusive and transparent elections” project, was ordered 500 printed canvas bags, which was distributed in various activities.

The profit covers the wages of people who make the bags and the development of other social services for people with disabilities.
Eva Bounegru, project manager at UNDP Moldova.
Eva Bounegru, Project Manager at UNDP Moldova, says: “The UNDP’s mission in Moldova is that no one to be left behind, and by supporting social entrepreneurship, we want to involve all citizens in enchaining democracy in the Republic of Moldova. We are glad to have such quality products, which we proudly will distribute them during our events, and we hope that we will continue to support such social projects.”
Such activities help people with disabilities to better integrate into society and to have a decent life.

Nicolae Ciocan underlines that such projects radically change the lives of people with disabilities:

Nicolae Ciocan, the administrative director of Keystone Moldova.
“They feel valued, and for us, it is very important that every person we work with to be valued according to his/her abilities. The people we work with are people with disabilities, but they also have a lot of skills, and we value them and this helps them integrate better in society and have a decent life.”

Mihai, also, is expressing his opinion about how important is this valuation. Having spent much of his life in boarding schools, he understood that besides specialized organizations or authorities, the people with disabilities must be supported by their own families too.

Mihai Grecu, a beneficiary of Keystone Moldova.
“I want to tell them not to keep their children with disabilities only inside their homes or to leave them at the boarding schools. Because a person with disabilities can still do a lot of useful things: to go to the refrigerator and to take a pack with sour cream, to put the kettle on, to sew some scrips or listen to music. She/he is not different than other people. For wheelchair users, for example, it is also important to have access everywhere. Is important any public institution have a ramp, even in shops, clubs, town halls, and hospitals.”
Mihai and Maria in front of their house.

In 2016, Keystone Moldova received the United Nations Human Rights Award for its outstanding support in developing community services for people with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities.