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The Society for the Care for the Blind in Laski

description of organisation

The Association for Care over the Blind is a catholic organisation of public benefit, founded in the 1911. The Association established a kindergarten and a boarding school, which are run by Franziscan Order, Sisters Servants of Cross. The Association works at helping about 300 blind and visually impaired children from all Poland adapt them to independent lives. Almost half of these children also suffer additional serious health problems. Children begin their education already in the kindergarten, then they attend primary school (7-12 years) and secondary school (13-16 years). Further education is lead in post-gymnasium technical schools. There is also a musical school in Laski. There are numerous types of rehabilitation organised for children in Laski, including: movement rehabilitation, the rehabilitation of sight (for children with seeing difficulties), improvement of touch, spatial orientation learning, hypotherapy and therapeutic horse-ridding, and music-therapy. High-class specialists decide on which sort of rehabilitation is appropriate for each particular pupil. After finishing the education provided in the institution, young graduates continue their education in regular educational institutions and/or look for work.

motivation and evs experience

The Society for the Care for the Blind in Laski has already hosted several EVS volunteers. The cooperation with volunteers has always been fruitfull and has had a positive influence on the children and staff members. Therefore we are still motivated to host EVS volunteers.
Firstly, we would like to guarantee the children better conditions in the institution. We have observed the positive effect of the cooperation with volunteers on our work and the functioning of our pupils. It is very important for children not to feel inferior and excluded. The contact with new people, especially with youth, helps them. They see that someone cares about them, prepares some exercises, tasks and events as well as has an individual contact with them, also during conversation lessons. The volunteers contribute to our work with their ideas, personalities, skills and abilities. They are extremely helpful in looking after blind or suffering from poor eyesight children and teenagers, offering them their attention, care, friendship, sense of security and self-respect. As a result, a sense of security and support are provided for them. Secondly, we hope that the volunteers could help us in enriching the range of proposed activities for the children. It would be nice, if the volunteers were "fresh blood" with plenty of new ideas how the time spent in the boarding houses for the boys and the girls (in groups with younger children) can be organized. The volunteers will have opportunities to develop their own projects and initiatives. On the other hand, we don't want to forget about volunteers’ needs and expectations. We hope that they will learn a lot during their EVS project in our institution. They will have an opportunity to learn a new culture and language. Undoubtedly, a contact with disabled children will teach them responsibility, emphaty as well as communication and organizational skills.

project environment

A. Project environment:

Laski is a small town at the edge of Kampinos Forest, not far from Warsaw. There is a city bus that connects Laski with the underground line, which makes it accessible for volunteers to visit the city often. On the other hand, there is only one bus line (running approximately every 20 minutes) and one night bus that connect the town with the capitol. It takes around 45-60 min to get to the centre of Warsaw. The Institution is located in the middle of fields and forest so contact with nature is guaranted. In winter time this same fact might turn out to be difficult to endure for young volunteers, since there are no entertainment facilities in Laski itself and when "going out" means about an hour bus+metro ride. Of course, Warsaw is a capitol city and thus compatible with other European metropolia. Cultural, touristic and entertaining facilities are easily accessible.
Laski Institution is an educational complex consisting of nursery, school, boarding school, music school and library. About 300 youngsters, often from families in difficult situation, are taken care of by laymen, nuns, blind workers and volunteers. The staff offers their protegees therapeutical and medical help, opportunities to acquire useful skills, try to prepare them for independent adult life and helps to develop their creativity. We pay special attention the policies of integratiing the disabled into society. This aim is constantly perceived by encouraging contacts with peers in other educational institutions and via participation in various cultural events. Unfortunately Laski in an institution and therefore separated from the rest of the community to some extent as well.
There are also number of Polish and foreign volunteers working in Laski Institution, so the EVS volunteers will have a chance to cooperate with them.
The volunteers choosing to come to work to Institution for the Blind in Laski should take into account that the place is held by Franciscan Nunnery. The nuns are very nice and open, nevertheless, the volunteers should respect the existing rules and solitude in their host organization. As the volunteers would be living in a dormitory for staff located in the territory of the Institution, they should take into account that from 23.30 (the time of arrival of the last bus from Warsaw) until 4.00 the gate is closed.

B. Proposed activities for EVS volunteers:

Each volunteer will work in one of the groups in dormitory. There are from 5 to 10 children in each group and the volunteers will help the educator responsible for them with their daily tasks. They will help them getting ready for school in the morning, help them with homework in foreign language class or helping the educators leading the children to different leisure time activities in the afternoon. There is more to do in the afternoon than mornings, which children usually spend in school. Since children live there, they also learn how to take care of themselves, which basically means that volunteers might also help (especially younger children) to go to the bathroom, get dressed or change clothes and such.
Volunteers' commitment provides an invaluable help to our everyday work and activities. Volunteers act as additional assistants, supporting our regular staff members in the groups of younger children (aged 8 – 13) at the boarding houses. Already from the age of three children in Laski learn to be independent. This is one of the basic roles of the education at the boarding houses that exists within the institute. Children with different social background go to the boarding houses. Very often their families are overprotective, which prevents the children from learning to become independent. Sometimes parents don't know how to take proper care of children with impaired eyesight and hinder their development. The pedagogue's task is to take the children out of the tight circle of familiar people and things and show them the unknown world, help them adapt to living in a group and teach them basic skills, such as washing and getting dressed, tying their shoes, and so on. The volunteers are extremely helpful in caring for blind or poor-sighted children and teenagers, giving them their attention, care, friendship, sense of security and self-respect. What more, it broadens our proteges' experience and gives a chance to spend time with people who, at the beginning, are complete strangers coming from a different country, different culture, speaking different language and having different believes. Through volunteers our kids realise that even a stranger may become their friend and give them help and support.
The second task of the volunteers (up to half of their work time) can include (depending on the level of their foreign language skills) conversations in English or German with students of the secondary school (aged about 16 – 20 years). The conversations will be conducted under the supervision of the language teachers, who will suggest themes and provide didactic materials, but also involve new ideas of the volunteers, e.g. the presentations their home countries, etc. These lessons can gain an especially strong motivating character. By practising foreign languages in a more natural way of real communication and in a more relaxed atmosphere, in a form of role-playing (drama pedagogic) or interactive language games, we can achieve a lot. Lessons could also include discussions about short written texts like poems, newspaper articles,songs etc. A good and friendly relationship with the volunteers could encourage shy students to communicate.
Other volunteers' tasks that are directly related to those of the Institute are the following:
- cooperation in managing musical, artistic and sport activities in children's free time, encouraging them to active participation;
- helping children in doing their homework and during individual trainings,

- helping to prepare meetings with youth, specialists, tutors, and representatives of partner organisations from various countries, working for establishing new contacts.

By living and working in Poland foreigners gain new insights into the social problems of Poles. They learn about life in Poland and thus, learn the value of Polish culture and get to understand Polish mentality. Working with a group of tutors, therapists and Polish volunteers, foreign volunteers learn how working with youth looks in such institutions in Poland. By taking part in holiday camps and international meetings, they acquire both pedagogical and managerial abilities. All volunteers participate in a Polish language courses as a part of their preparations in order to be able to create a good verbal contact with the children.
Since Laski work with blind and visually impaired children, the volunteers have a chance to learn how to work with this target group. They will see special trainings (e.g. how to walk with a cane, how to assist a blind person, etc.), observe specailist care for children with poor eye-sight and learn how they teach the children and youngsters to take care of themselves and become independent.

C. Volunteer profiles and recruitment process:

The target group is quite demanding, therefore we are looking for a patient and persistent persons who enjoy challenges and feel motivated to work exactly with blind chindren and youth. The volunteers should have a team spirit but also could be able to work independently. For the benefit and safety of the blind children there is a clear hierarchical personal structure of responsibilities in the boarding houses and schools, where the volunteer has to "fit in" with his own high consciousness of reliance and responsibility by fullfilling the tasks of his "superiors", but also he also by giving inspiration to others. Bearing in mind the target group, to avoid possible misunderstandings it would be good, if the volunteers have at least basic understanding and sensitivity about the issues related to work with visually impaired youth or with some experience already with the individual or group work with (healthy) children or youth.

During the recruitment process we are open to all candidates, no matter their national, social, economical or religious background. It is important that interested volunteers be aware about the fact that the institution is run by the Franciscan Order of Nuns and existing rules in the host organization. Respect for roman-catholic values and practices is expected from future volunteers.Christian education here means the respect of each human being and his freedom, sensitivity for the mystery of suffering, respect for nature, care about finding out the best way of development of all talents of our disabled students and about accompanying them on their way to a possibly most independent life.
Due to children’s need for conversation in different languages, volunteers’ motivation to prepare conversations or basic language lessons will be an asset. At the same time, this is not the only criteria. General motivation and engagement of volunteers are just as important in the selection process.
We expect candidates to send us their CV and motivation letter.

D. Number of volunteers hosted: 4

E. Risk prevention, protection and safety:

The volunteers will always be able to count on support from specialists, the staff and other volunteers. They will be acquainted with the work safety and hygiene as well as the rules and methods how to work with blind and disabled children. They will have a chance to participate in short trainings organized for the staff and learn more about the techniques used in working with blind and visually impaired youth.
Volunteers will get a mentor from outside the Institution and will have regular contact and meetings with project coordinators in coordinating organization. Since the Polish Robert Schuman Foundation coordinates activities of around ten EVS volunteers in Warsaw, volunteers working in Laski will have a chance to integrate with them. They will have language lessons together and will also participate in other activities organized by the CO. By organizing a group of volunteers and developing their common activities an additional social network is created for volunteers from Laski to be able to count on as well.
Because of the specific and difficult profile of the hosting placement we cannot host volunteers under 18 years of age.

inclusion topics

This organisation is willing to involve volunteers who face situations which make their participation in activities more difficult, from the following categories for different types of project:

  • Educational difficulties
  • Social obstacles
  • Cultural differences