I stand in front of the Centre and wonder what awaits me there. I have never been to a centre for people with intellectual difficulties and I'm feeling a little uneasy. I have zero experience in communicating with such people and I wonder whether they will let me into their world.
I ring the doorbell. Someone opens the door. I step inside...
Right from the front door I enter the art atelier — I simply follow the affable people who are sincerely happy to welcome me inside. Working tables steeped in interesting stuff — boxes with beads, gold dust-sprinkled pine cones, paints and brushes, meticulously shaped hearts from dough await the day when they will be lovingly transformed into pretty magnets revealing messages of love.
Here young ladies learn how to make jewellery, draw and make different art objects. Fida—the group supervisor and trained art therapist—takes me to an exquisite display stacked high in beautifully arranged bracelets, romantic magnets and vials with decoupage and prettily painted Easter eggs. The necklaces and brooches made from felt peek shyly amidst paper flowers with their petals spread like the wings of a butterfly. At the moment, the ladies are making paper wigs from magazines and advertising brochures, which will later be used to make baskets, pencil holders and other decorative objects. At the end of the summer preparations will begin for Christmas accessories and cards—until then everyone can share their ideas, which are penned down as suggested Christmas decorations.
Although an overwhelming urge to linger into this nook of artistry and creativity, I decide to follow the enticing aromas wafting in the air.
The kitchen! This is where, each morning, preparations begin to cook lunch for the Day Care Centre, cooked from fresh ingredients and served daily, on the dot of 12:30, on the tables in the dining room, where everyone is free to enjoy a bite. The menu is decided by Dancho—a professional chef—but everyone is free to make suggestions. He allocates the daily tasks in the kitchen—cutting fruits and veggies, preparing and processing the ingredients for the main dish, dressing salads and all other tasks for the day. Whilst lunch is cooking, the kitchen team cleans and sets the tables, placing spoons, forks and knives, napkins and glasses. I believe that cooking is pleasant and fun so no wonder everyone wants to learn. Cleaning the tables after lunch, however, has no flair of creativity. To my surprise, everyone joins in without waiting for a prompt—the ladies remove the empty dishes and the young men clean the tables with a detergent and lift the chairs for the daily vacuum cleaning ritual. The team of aspiring chefs then gets down to cleaning and arranging the kitchen itself. Everything is cleaned and polished till it shines as per the rules and I am already convinced that everything is interesting and each job is a source of joy and pleasure round here.
Yes, it turns out that cleaning is indeed an activity in which all clients of the Day Care Centre participate without exception. With assistance from Krasi—the work skills expert—everyone can learn how to clean, do the laundry, dry, iron, fold and perform other essential housekeeping tasks. In the laundry room I can see neatly arranged washing detergents, and an iron and ironing board. Naturally, I am most impressed with the wardrobe with neatly folded uniform T-shirts, aprons and towels.
Gaining basic culinary, cleaning and housekeeping skills is of key importance for the confidence of the clients of the Day Care Centre. Being able to help out daily round the house, maintain a clean and neat appearance, and cook something easy and delicious to eat means being more independent.
And let us not forget something else that took me by surprise—in order to be included in the kitchen or laundry room schedule, you must first apply!
Talking about schedules, I suddenly wanted to find out what one looks like. The schedule in question details the activities taking place on each day of the week and the respective group supervisors.
I find myself unable to turn down the invitation to have a cup of coffee and be shown around the soap making atelier—the most magical spot in the Day Care Centre. Here I meet Radi—a psychologist who supervises the group activities and has the challenging task of organising both the creative and actual soap-making process. I learn that soap making is an all-round favourite. There really is something magical about seeing how the greyish, unremarkable blocks of glycerine get cut into small pieces to be melted until a beautiful, translucent 'syrup' is obtained, which is painted with harmless dyes before different aromas are added. The richness of the different aromas is truly astounding—from the gourmand strawberry, mango, honey, milk, and berries to the romantic lilac and lily-of-the-valley and invigorating linden, coffee or juniper.
All this—as it turned out—was the easy part of the process because the soap bars were yet to acquire a shape after being poured into silicone moulds before cooling and being carefully removed. The part requiring the greatest precision follows when the fragrant heart and tulip shaped bars are laid on thin foil to be delicately packaged without altering their exquisite form. No one gets angry if a soap bar is returned to the repackaged or glued again—yes, the task is indeed difficult, and everyone is enormously proud of being able to do it. Attaching labels and stickers with a logo also requires dexterity and precision, but is well worth the effort. Fantastic messages awaiting to be touched and felt to tell the story of this place and the wonderful people in it in colour and rich fragrances.
The day ends with everyone cleaning their work station and the whole premises, followed by a light snack of fruit prepared in the kitchen and different games that stimulate and develop thinking and memory. Before parting for the day, the clients of the Centre and the team sit down and analyse the day—who has learned what; which tasks were difficult and which were easy.
Here, at the Day Care Centre, I had the privilege to become part of a world that is pure, and full of goodness and genuine friendliness. If you have a place in your heart for more purity, warmth and friendship—come and visit us too!