Corona-column: 2020 – an awkward, difficult year with successful new ways of working!
23 januari 2021
2020 was an awkward year: strange, quite difficult for all the people in the world. The same goes for the people in Villa Riviera. In mid-March, with the escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic and the declaration of a state of emergency in Bulgaria, social services were closed. Residents who had visited Villa Riviera for 14 years, during which the centre has never been closed, had to stay locked up at home.
In the first hours and days, the team of Villa Riviera kept in touch with residents and their relatives mainly by phone. We made several visits to the homes of the residents, by prior arrangement and in compliance with all safety measures, in order to distribute materials for them to work independently, with the help of their parents, as well as with the specialists when the remote work started.
Remote work with adults with intellectual disabilities posed a number of challenges to the team of specialists. After taking into account the availability and skills of using electronic devices, the maximum attention span of people with intellectual disabilities and – at the same time – their need to continue to communicate with each other and with professionals, we developed our program for remote work.
We continued to communicate regularly with some of the residents by telephone. During the three months that the Day Centre was closed to visitors, we delivered materials to homes several times. In a private group on Facebook, we posted videos shot by various specialists in Villa Riviera on topics from their programs (culinary skills, civic education, art therapy, bread therapy, health education, club “Sharing” within the program “Psychological support”, etc.). Thus, users had the opportunity to maintain contact with professionals by seeing them and hearing their voices. They could also comment below the videos. And they received tasks and “challenges” that they had to complete with help at home, film the result and share in the group. We organized several photo contests involving whole families, and the winners received symbolic awards.
On the other hand, it was important to maintain active contact with parents so that we could help solve household, psychological and health problems at an early stage. There were several cases of serious problems of this nature. The crisis, which began in mid-March, affected all areas of public life in Bulgaria.
Summer brought us some relief. With the opening of Villa Riviera to visitors in mid-June, when social services were re-opened, most users began to visit the Day Centre again daily. A small number of parents chose to keep their children at home for security reasons. We continued to communicate with them as during the lockdown.
Our summer program was intense and dynamic, although in compliance with strict safety measures and work with small groups. We were all very happy to be together again. In the middle of the summer, we had a fun garden hat party.
We won a project funded by the Youth Projects 2020 program of the Municipality of Varna and organized a 3-day trip for a group of our residents to the northernmost part of the Black Sea. There we cleaned the beaches of garbage, and then our residents were trained to make works of art from the strangest waste.
In October in the yard of Villa Riviera we arranged an exhibition of these works, and our participants presented their work to visitors. Some of the masterpieces were sold at the exhibition, and others were donated – so the message of young people with intellectual disabilities to protect the environment reached more people.
As autumn progressed and the pandemic worsened, more and more parents chose to keep their children at home so that they would not have too many contacts. In addition, at the end of November, new Covid-19 measures were introduced in Bulgaria, including the requirement for social services to organize their work so as to provide only individual consultations and care.
Therefore, at this stage Villa Riviera works with 10 people who visit the service. Simultaneously, we have resumed the remote program in the private Facebook group, and, of course, all materials are dedicated to the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays. There has been a small Christmas party, with our residents receiving bigger gifts and not only from us (see article ‘Kerst in Varna’ on this website). Thanks to donations from Varna and from the Dordrecht-Varna Twinning Foundation, Santa Claus carried a bigger bag to their homes, bringing the warmth and kindness of people who think of others in difficult times.
Tania Momcheva, Team leader at Villa Riviera Day centre