As an organization our history starts in 1993, however we have to take into account the history of our country. After regaining independence in 1991 Latvia was facing an unprecedented issue: during the 50 years of Soviet occupation most of people with disability were “locked away” in closed and very large long term institutions. It was uncommon to talk about them and children with disability were mostly taken out of families and placed into an instruction to be raised by nurses. Unfortunately we are still battling this heritage because even in 2022 long term institutions still exist and the process of deinstitualization is stalling due to poor government policies, inconsistency and disregard to NGOs and organizations advocating for the rights of people with disability.
Back in the 1993 government was unable to facilitate the change in society needed to include people with various abilities and major help came in the form of various projects, NGOs from Western Europe and the USA, specialist visits, training and improvement of higher education the fields of social and assistance work. Thus starts our story with an American foundation: Bethphage, Bethel institute from Germany and other organizations who encouraged us to work with projects, to create our own NGO and start working as a service provider. We started with advocacy and soon after opened our first community based service: a day care centre for people with mental and learning difficulties. We created regular youth groups for kids with various abilities to mingle and learn together. We worked closely with schools that opened their classrooms for kids of all abilities and successfully worked with integrated groups, we worked with teachers, nannies and other kids in educating them about inclusion, independence, assistance and other topics that thankfully today are common courtesy and are practiced everywhere.
As we grew, we opened more services and in 1998 added the first ever group homes in Riga, Latvia together with specialized sewing and laundry workshops that still operate and have assisted many people with mental and learning difficulties in transition from life in an institution or family to independency. We have helped many individuals to establish themselves in an open labour market and are helping those who chose to leave our group homes to live individually with assistance.
Moreover over the years we have participated in many international projects. Together with LATMIL we have participated in projects that help our national government with creating legislation, implementation and control or various services for people with mental and learning difficulties. We actively participate in teaching lecturing projects. Our favourites are Erasmus+ youth inclusion and strategic partnership projects, as they immensely benefit not only our organization, but mostly people who receive our services. We also have implemented fitness and health focused projects that impact our clients.
We want to end our story with a view into our future: we plan to expand our reach in international projects, especially youth exchanges, continue with our work with healthy lifestyle by developing our nutrition guidelines methodology and continue to provide the best service we are able to.