On the weekend, August 18, the festival “INФЕСТ” ended an inclusive camp, which was held in Nalibokskaja pušča, in Valožyn district on the “Bielakoriec” trail. The festival and camp are the part of the “Valožyn without barriers” project, which aims to create an accessible environment for people with disabilities.
About 80 people took part in the camp, including people with different disabilities from different regions of Belarus who live in families. During the week, camp participants and volunteers created a sensory path and art objects, built houses for birds and insects and prepared space for the inclusive festival INФЕСТ.
“The first group was formed around the zoologist from the BSU Dmitry Petrov, together they made birdhouses, houses for insects and bees. The second group on land art created objects with materials found in the forest, the participants came up with their own ideas and decorated part of the eco trial. The third group wove the vine, the result of their work was a man who hugs a tree, a symbol of unity with nature, with trees”, explains Irina Ivanova, project manager, Valožyn without barriers.
Experts, together with the trainers, worked in groups. Alesia Kruchonok, a researcher at the Botanical Garden, walked with the participants along the trial and told about the flora of the Nalibockajapušča. Participants used interesting plants and unusual natural objects to create land art along with Catherine Sposob, a coach in Eka-Maysterni. Within the camp participants together with the designer Dina Leonova created a sensory path from different natural materials. Walking along the sensory path barefoot and with closed eyes is not only a massage for the feet, but also a meditative practice of unity with nature.
The program of the inclusive camp was quite intense. During the day participants and volunteers were engaged in creativity, and in the evening they listened to lectures on the rights of people with disabilities, watched modern Belarusian cinema and danced.
Participant of the camp Petrakov Ekaterina shares her impressions about the camp: “Thank you all for the gift you have made for us. This camp is a real gift for people with disabilities. Today, many people say that we will not be able to live in tents, and you have given us the opportunity to prove another thing. Many of us sit at home and do not have the opportunity to live four days out of town in tents. I would like only one thing to have more camps for disabled people in Belarus. You have given us the opportunity to feel we are necessary people. In this camp, every day I felt I was necessary and important. I only want to say: thank you for the camp you gave us. Let such projects be every year, I will be the first in your camp! Thank you!”
The inclusive camp was ended with the festival INФЕСТ. Public organizations and initiatives made presentations about the rights of people with disabilities. Belapdiimi spoke about clear language, and the program Mivia presented tactile maps.
Guests could walk between the thematic zones and could make clay cup or fabric toys, or any other craft. There was also the opportunity to practice inclusive yoga with Vera Veremey, danceoke and interact with the dog therapists at the CORSA Center for canistherapy. There was foodcourt where the products of local agro-fairs and RAIPO and “Monkeyfood” were presented. The festival ended with the performance of well-known Belarusian musical groups: Akute,: B: N :, RSP, and Tomato Jam.
Sergei Drozdovsky, director of “Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities” adds: “You won’t find any restrictions in any festival where people with disabilities are not allowed. No one talks like that, but the fact is that no one provides special needs – special areas, entrances, toilets and so on. We tried it all here – all this does not repel, but rather attracts, it removes barriers. It’s easy to invite everyone but to guarantee a comfortable stay is more difficult”.
Inclusive camp and Festival INFEST are part of the project “Valožyn without barriers”. Within the framework of the project on the territory of Naliboсkaja pušča the ecological trial “Bielakoriec” was equipped and opened. It has a special covering and pavilions with ramps, which makes the trail convenient for people moving in a wheelchair, and information stands are available for blind people and people with mental disabilities. In addition, the trail is equipped with special toilets, so that the person in the wheelchair could get there without any obstacles.
Natalia Stasevich, European Union project coordinator: “I would like to add that the festival, the camp and the creation of the eco trial are a small part of a large complex program, within which educational activities were held. We gave a bait to the local authorities in Valožyn, now they have a pilot project, the implementation of which they can share with other regions of Belarus”.
The changes in the Valožyn district happen thanks to the “Valožyn without barriers” project realized by The Valožyn district executive committee in cooperation with the Local Foundation for Promotion of International Dialogue and Cooperation “Interakcia”, the Belarusian Society of Disabled People, and the Belarusian Association of Rural and Ecotourism “Country Escape”. The project is funded by the European Union.