Donation to the “Open the Windows”
Organization for children with disabilities
Written by Zorica Trajkova
“Open the windows” is a non-governmental organization which has been using assistive technology for over 15 years to instigate and alleviate the active involvement of children with disabilities in the modern world. MAAA Board visited the organization and donated part of the money raised from the humanitarian concert held in December 2019.
The Executive director, Ms. Margarita Gulevska, answered some of our questions to explain the work of the organization in more detail.
Ms. Gulevska, you are an Executive director of the “Open the windows” organisation. Could you please give our readers more information on what exactly this organisation does?
Open the Windows is the only organization in Macedonia entirely focused on promoting digital inclusion and assistive technology. Through the use of assistive technology, the organization strives to initiate and facilitate active inclusion of persons with disabilities and all other people in the contemporary world. Our main focus are young people and children with disabilities, and our operations are directed towards: information and communication technologies, inclusive and modern education and equal opportunities for all. The organization also creates a climate for making partnerships with organizations and institutions in the country and internationally.
When was this organisation founded and what was the main inspiration for its set-up?
The organization was founded in 2005, by two experts in two completely different fields, the special educator, Lidija Krstevska Dojchinovska, and the IT specialist, Toni Bachvarovski. While working together in a humanitarian international organization they had an opportunity to visit a center for assistive technology in Lyon, France, and were inspired to open a similar center in Skopje. They got support from their former employer Hendicap International and so the story began. A special educator and a computer specialist started this association that has been growing jointly with its beneficiaries through the years.
How many employees work in your organization and how many children do they work with currently? Who can obtain your help? Are there age, physical or mental restrictions?
The organisation in its core is a service provider that has 10 employees and provides three types of services for persons with disabilities: individualized support for assistive technology use, speech therapy and early simulative development. Before the coronavirus crisis, at the centre, we provided services for 60 children and their families, and very shortly after the country lockdown with the support of UNICEF we transferred the services online by creating an online platform that currently offers individual support for nearly 90 children and 160 parents. There is no restriction as to the age or type of disability, but there are criteria concerning the services we offer. Technology does not restrict anyone, it can increase the capacity of the person, and thus make them more useful members of the society. Computer adaptation and assistive technology are especially important for people with disabilities.
Ms. Gulevska, how do you check the progress of what you do? Is there any successful story you would be proud to share with our readers?
The professional team of the association is assessing the needs of each beneficiary, and that becomes the basis on which they develop an individual work plan that includes the personal goals of the child in terms of computer use and a series of activities appropriate for their mental and factual age. For all these activities the team of the Centre has developed internal procedures that include six months’ evaluation. In 15 years we succeeded to create impressive success stories. It was very difficult to explain how important our work would be when we started it, but now when we see those children who used to start their education journey with us at the age of 5 becoming successful high school and university students we are very proud. They replaced the notebooks and pencils with our computers, which were the only way through which they could express themselves and communicate with their teachers and peers.
How can people support your cause? Is there any donation phone number or open account for those who would be willing to help?
We welcome everyone who is willing to support our cause because our beneficiaries receive free services. We have developed an activity called “Be a Godfather of our organization” and we succeeded to establish good cooperation with few companies. We aim to establish long-term cooperation with the local business sector and individuals. Those who decide to become “Godfathers” are donating funds or giving other kinds of monthly support, mainly intended to improve the conditions for individual work with the children with disabilities coming to our Center and thus contribute to changing and improving the quality of their lives. Those who are interested in becoming Godfathers can communicate with my colleague Krenar Qoku on email@example.com.