December 3rd, 2015
International Day of Disabled Persons: An Interview with Vardan Tadevosyan
Today is the International Day of Disabled Persons! On 3rd December the world promotes awareness and mobilises support for the inclusion of persons with disabilities. HART is privileged to support The Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh and below is an interview with the director and founder Vardan Tadevosyan, a truly inspirational man.
Can you tell us about your current work at the Rehabilitation Centre?
I am Director of the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre, but really I am a team member. I am with my patients and my staff all the time. I am treating patients, doing management work and doing handyman work. I am very much involved in designing and building the equipment that we are using, as this is much cheaper than purchasing it from outside. I am happiest when I am training my staff and students at the Centre.
My real responsibility is to be with my patients, and part of my time I spend visiting patients in our home visit project. Families want to spend long time with me, talking about their difficulties because the Rehabilitation Centre is a big part of their lives. We make good decisions together, and I think that talking gives them some relief. In this way I am like a psychologist. What can make you happier than seeing them being relieved?
The professionals of my team are the best because some of them have been working with us for 15 years and they are planning to stay. They have one year of intensive education from me, and then I support them to have continuous education and to develop their skills. Now it is easier for me to train the students, because my staff are also trained to be educators.
Could you talk us through the treatments that the Centre provides for the patients?
We provide physical therapy, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy, speech therapy and psychology. We are also trying to develop and offer sport therapy, art therapy and music therapy. Our staff are becoming one big team of multi-disciplinary specialists. Patients attending the Rehabilitation Centre are able to more easily reintegrate with their community and live full and happy lives.
We have too many young people with disabilities at the Centre and we are trying to give them more than just treatment. We try to bring them out to the community; take them to the restaurant, movies and theatre performances; make excursions to historic places and visit churches.
Our patients are babies, children, adults and the elderly: anyone who has physical and mental disabilities. 90% of our patients are people who have physical disabilities and 5% have mental disabilities.
What motivates you to do your work?
I have a motto that my staff know, and sometimes are using themselves – “if not me, who else will do this?”
What are the things that you are most proud of about the Centre and the biggest accomplishments?
I think the biggest achievement for us is that we now have a running Rehabilitation Centre that is recognised by authorities, nations, professionals and our supporters. The Centre is becoming very popular and many hospitals and doctors are seeing the results of our work. Every year around 1000 people are getting benefit this work.
What do you feel are the biggest challenges that you face in your work?
Well there are many challenges, but I like challenges!
For me, my biggest challenge in my life was in 1999 when I came to Stepanakert to see how I was going to start this project. It was my biggest challenge when I saw the destroyed building and when I talked to the people and no-one had a clue what I was trying to do. But Lady Cox promised her help and support and let me come to my own decision, knowing that I was the only person able to do this job.
I really couldn’t say no because of the people: I knew they really needed the Centre. So I decided that yes, I will begin this project, and I am really happy that I did. What can make a person happier than to be able to help your nation when it suffers?
In the beginning, my work would sometimes take me 17 hours per day: going home just to sleep and coming back early morning to start all the renovation and training. The prayers of our supporters give me a lot. Sometimes when I had days that felt I couldn’t pass through a wall I found that I was suddenly able to and I believe that the prayers helped me! I am so lucky that people supported me in this dream.
Today’s difficulties are different than those times. The waiting list for non-urgent cases is 6-8 months, which for me is far too long. People coming first time after a serious accident have to be treated as soon as possible and I am really trying to juggle the funds to prioritise the most urgent cases. Eight nurses have just completed a training programme that will enable them to work in the regional hospitals. I hope that this will do something to reduce the waiting list, but really we need a new Centre with a bigger capacity.
What are your hopes and priorities for the future?
In the future I believe we will have a really modern and decent Rehabilitation Centre that is accessible for everyone and has different departments – we won’t treat babies and elderly people in one room. My staff will divide their responsibilities and become specialists in their chosen area of expertise.
I think we will have Rehabilitation Centre where everyone with any kind of disabilities will come to get treatment, to learn new activities, experience a new way of life, prepare for new professions and reintegrate back into the community. I believe that we will see a lot of changes in my community because sometimes they still don’t recognise people with disabilities. We will change the view of the community towards people with disabilities and families won’t feel any shame that they have a relative with disabilities.
In the future I believe the Rehabilitation Centre will be a recognised centre for the treatment of people from neighbouring countries. I believe one day we will have a peace agreement with Azerbaijan, and what can be better when your neighbour country is recognising and sending their patients to your place to get treatment? What can be better than when you can help everyone, without thinking about their nationality, without thinking about their religion? I think this is the future and I am more than sure it will happen, it will come.
I think it will come because when I see what we have done in 15 years I know how much more we can achieve in the next 15 years!
How does HART support you?
HART support is really very essential, because our country is not recognised. International donors are interested in what we are doing but they are not able to help because of the political situation. The State is supportive and is paying for some of our work, but unfortunately what they can afford is very little for all the activities that we do.
So without HART’s support I can’t imagine how difficult it would be. The Centre probably couldn’t survive and if we did somehow survive, the quality and the work would be very different.
With HART, this is teamwork – and I am happy to be in your team, and I am happy to have you in my team. We are like family. Thank you so much for this!
Do you have a message for friends and supporters here in the UK?
I would like to thank everyone who is praying for us and who is interested in what we are doing. You are reading the HART newsletter, seeing updates on our activities and visiting us. I can’t say how much I appreciate your support to HART and to our Centre. Because of your support, and more and more people with disabilities will get their hope and will be able to believe in a future.
HART cannot support our partners without the help of generous people who donate. If you would like to support our work and the work of our partners, you can donate online here.
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