A man.s creativity dwells at the very bottom of his being regardless the hindrances it puts before him to overcome. The power of the life is the real cause of its preservation.
Maybe everybody is trying hard to search for a meaning of life and everybody dreams that they can achieve something big. Some of us can make the dream come true totally, some of us are less successful. But not all of us have the possibility to change the life by ourselves no matter how much we want to. This actually is the case of the handicapped children.
The life of handicapped child will always have some limits. To achieve targets will most of the time mean a certain amount of help from the outside world. Handicapped children do not always have the opportunity to do what they would like to do, what would satisfy them and what would be interesting for the public. But it is very important for them and for their development to reach out for tangible results that would be seen in the public; on exhibitions, in calendars, in media. Only the one who during his childhood gets the experience of a meaningful work, of being successful and recognized or the experience of appreciation what he or she did well, only such a person will tend to get similar experience also when they grows up. They will actively accept their life that is an inevitable pre-condition for being independent.
Czech Republic in general does not really know much about the problems of handicapped children. Many people.s attitude towards them is quite evasive. That is a logical outcome from the Czechoslovak communist era when the government had kept these children isolated purpose.
In order to help these children to feel self-confident we have done out best to found the European Center of Arts for Handicapped Children in Smržovka in the Jizerské mountains.
We help them to find a new dimension of life, positive attitude to life and inner satisfaction through their own creativity. We want them to understand that the most important thing for them is their own initiative. And only that can help them to start an independent life and to integrate in society.
In the Center the children with a handicap meet the healthy ones. Being led by artists and designers, children gain experience in areas like graphics, paintings, plastic arts, and photographers show them the first steps in taking pictures. The Center is situated in a lovely countryside therefore it is surrounded by nice and easy atmosphere which is important. Timing of the days is variable and it is fully adapted to the needs of the children. The result is that children feel free, they are more sensitive and motivated to create little artworks the quality of which is much higher then the ones when children are either at home or in other asylum homes where they feel more time restriction and less possibilities so the little works of arts are less elaborated as well.
We present the handicapped children as personalities that do need our help in their growth and in their action but they do not want false compassion and gestures, they do not need any pity, any inappropriate regard. They do not want to live in a golden cage. And they do not want to be left aside from many areas of life that for us are absolutely obvious. That obvious that we do not even appreciate the meaning, the beauty and the importance of them. We are talking here about possibilities like going to the theater, to the cinema, having hobbies, travelling, enjoying sports and also living family life. Hence we try to do out best we can to take down the barriers the children live with in their lives.
Children.s creation is shown in calendars, exhibitions, postcards, telephone cards etc. It is important, their work has then a long-term sense. Looking at their works presented this way children are given positive feeling, they enjoy creating and fighting for themselves. They recognize that initiative comes to it ´s appraisal. This recognition is important for their future and their later independence. An initiative handicap is more expected to find application on the strained labor market, not to mention the fact that it won.t burden too much the social network of the state budget.
Even if their handicap prevented them from doing their job, initiative will make them go in for hobbies, look for friends, take an active part in social life, get interested in things everywhere around, take part in community activities and the like. This all will contribute to increase quality of their life and also their human potential will develop. This is certainly how to avoid their social exclusion, which occurs very often.
Achieved results in art activities are used to show the public uneasy life of handicapped children in an unviolent way. Final solution of the problematic consists above all in a helpful attitude of the public. Meeting handicapped children.s creation more often makes us subconsciously realize more and more their existence among us. Even psychological barrier hidden in our souls will break in the course of time.
Many people think that the problem of handicapped children is based on financing. This is however only a part of truth. Chance to reach a position, getting involved in social things and feeling internal self-fulfillment are also unsubstitutable.
The Center of Arts is situated in Smržovka in the Jizerské mountains and there used to be a kindergarten in the building. It is surrounded by a free atmosphere and the whole property includes also a large garden and part of a forest. Not faraway there are: the winter sports center Špičák, the dam of Mšeno in Jablonec, a swimming pool, the ZOO of Liberec, the view-tower of Černá studnice, trekking paths and cycling routes passing the ridges of the Jizerské mountains. Just a few minutes. walk takes you to the ski lift that enables you to have a fabulous panoramic view on the Jizerské mountains and the Krkonoše mountains afterwards. In Smržovka there is a bus stop and a railway station too.
The premise consists of two buildings. The first one is a three-floor building with a multipurpose social hall, an exhibition hall and a dining-room on the ground floor. There are double to three-bed rooms for lodging participants of stays and an easy-access sanitary facility on the first floor. In the attic room arises an art studio with a photographic studio designed also as an informal exhibition hall. The second one is a double-floor building. There is a ceramic workshop provided with a ceramic furnace, other workshops and a technical background.
The children come here to stay for several days and the ones that show more talent and enthusiasm come again later to stay longer to get more experiences and detailed explanation about various techniques of the plastic arts. During their stays we make sure that there are enough of cultural events, slide shows or concerts so that the children get motivated to be more creative on a certain theme.
Also the parents or the tutors of the handicapped children have plenty of opportunities here to meet and to exchange experience. At the same time they discover the children.s premises for plastic arts. Many of them are very surprised how skillful the little .artists. are. The parents are also getting some basic information about different techniques so they see how difficult it must be to create things with hands that have very limited possibility to move however the whole range of a child.s creativity can still be used in its maximum. Sometimes we discover that a highly talented handicapped child exceeds the abilities of the healthy children of the same age.
The Center is meant to be an open one so the healthy children can come and stay too. It is not a fortress that is isolated but it wants to cooperate with other entities and the aim is not to concentrate all the artistic activities of handicapped children in one place. It was founded to be open for everybody that would need a short time stay, maybe in case of personal troubles, and who will like to join the program.
First stage operation of the European art center for handicapped children . Sněženka / Snowdrops / in Smržovka was opened in November ´98 by the Prime Minister JUDr. Pavel Rychetský and MUDr. Jiří Jedlička, Chairman of the Honorary Council of the Czech Medical Chamber and the great-grandson of the founder of Jedličkův Institute. Opening was followed by the first meeting of handicapped children from the Euro-region NISA prepared in cooperation with the program PHARE. The center was supported in 1998-1999 and in 2003 by the Czech-German Fund of Future.
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