Bulgaria has Home, not abandoned children by Kapka PANAYOTOVA Executive Director, Centre for Independent Living
o this is how, with much aplomb, sounded the Bulgarian National Television’s announcement for the Sunday premiere of a documentary commissioned, that is to say, paid for, by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (MLSP) in order to reveal the bright side of... life - the achievements of the Bulgarian government and its child protection policy. I decided to skip it - I’ve seen enough propaganda to last me a lifetime. Never mind that most of my fillings have become necessary as a result of mawkish idyllic and carefree pictures of the years of the mature socialism and the socialist realism. Demagogy is not a characteristic I value, less so when it borders the purely political and cynical. I couldn’t resist the temptation though, so I started casting a glance now and then... Outrageous was the only adjective that sprang to mind. The lines that follow were provoked by yet another sleepless night and the pestering question: Where do my taxes go? To places like the notorious Sveta Petka home in Mogilino, daycare centres and other institutions for children with disabilities! They are used for commissioned propaganda initiatives of those in power who strive to persuade the public that endless effort is being exerted to deinstitutionalise (I wonder how they even manage to pronounce this compound word), only, you see, the money is far from enough, besides there are children ·who can’t do much” ... other than rock in their beds. ·Obliging” media eager for public prestige but not particularly knowing of social work take up - unthinkingly - the message of ·Let’s donate for the children of Mogilino”, and then there’s the tinsel of the Magnificent Six show. The blue screen alternates between heart rendering scenes of children without disabilities eager to give up their favourite toy; heroic mothers determined to raise their disabled children at home and humbling those who unable to gather enough strength, as well as public figures in a new field - pop music, regardless of their lack of singing talents - totally committed to this noble cause. In short: an outrageous kitsch that managed to raise 400 thousand Euro (as at sometime last week) for the children in Mogilino. What about the children at Gomotartsi or Petrovo? And what about the rest in more than 20 social homes for children with disabilities? 1 OBEKTIV
I dare not comment on Home as a documentary in terms of aestheticism or creativity, the tastelessness of the bTV reality show would be hard to surpass. The former’s cynicism, however, bears no competition. Instead of sitting head down in shame for all the outrage it has allowed to happen, the MLSP was proudly showing off isolated instances of professional care, family warmth, or a humane treatment to human beings who deserve much more, and namely the chance to live a real life just as everyone else, full of tears and joy, ups and downs, success and failure. As long as they are given the chance!!! Instead of pouring money out for propaganda, the government must make schools and kindergartens accessible, provide for modern technological means and support in a natural childhood environment, so that these children may go to school, have friends their age, and learn according to their talents and wishes, and not following the instructions of some experts, feel that they matter... Yet another thing won’t let go: everyone is pointing to the NGOs to make things right with their collaboration with the state and municipalities as the good European practice. Things have been going on like this for 15 years now, but Bulgaria still ranks second (after Russia) in number of institutionalised children. True, NGOs have utilised quite an amount of public funds toward ·improving the quality of life of children with disabilities”. NGOs, however, are bound to the rules laid down by the state, thus sharing its responsibility for the tiny ·benefit” and the monstrous bitterness in these children’s daily life. Finally, this prevailingly media discussion is totally useless to the future of children with disabilities, its focus is misplaced. ·Instead of shaking up public attitudes toward people with disabilities, and people with mental disabilities in particular, its fails to step out of the prosaic genre of ·who’s better, who’s best” or bTV vs. BNT, the good guys vs. the bad guys, MLSP vs. BBC and so on and so forth”, says my friend Valya Vodenicharova, and I agree. Instead of bringing down traditional attitudes and beliefs, it goes to instill that people with disabilities are miserable, incapable, and needy... of mercy and money. Instead of mobilising public energy into anger against the policy of segregation, it offers comfort of thought at the cost of one text message indulgence. One truth though is left unspoken: no matter the amount of money or the quality of life in an institution, it will cripple for life.
Капка Панайотова анализира порочната практика на телевизионните канали да използват пропагандно децата, настанени в институции, и неработещи...