Almost Every Fifth Child in the U.S. Suffers from Some Form of Disability. Can We Help?
November is a month of giving, which, of course, comes in so many different forms: From writing a check to volunteering your time or even just finding a place in your heart for someone with special needs. Doctor Rada Sumareva, New York, decided to do all of the above. Over 12 years ago she gathered a group of like mind professionals, those who shared the wish to give, including most recently, to improve quality of life of special needs patients. “At Russian American Dental Association (RADA) we place big emphasis on a concept of sharing. There are hundreds of organizations designed to provide help to those who need it most, however there is no real and working system of referrals among the organizations, thus patients always get only fragmented information about help that is available. We’re trying to foster closer relationship between the organizations, not only nationwide, abroad as well; share experiences, try to implement in the U.S. what has proved to be success in Eastern Europe or Middle East.”
Echoing the challenge voiced by Doctor Sumareva, Yekaterina Konovalova, M.S. speech-language and feeding therapist through the Early Intervention Program says, “The only clinic we’ve referred so far meant a long commute for my patients.” Through attending RADA Special Care for Special Needs Campaign round table last week Yekaterina got contacts for more clinics, specializing in providing medical care to kids with different forms of disabilities.
Here is another example of how little we know about programs designed to help: Over half a million New Yorkers pass by Coalition of the Concerned Medical Professionals building in Brooklyn every week and most of us probably don’t know that the organization advocates for uninsured population in need of medical care, without ever asking about immigration status of the patient. “We do all it takes, to the extent of delivering fresh fruits and vegetables, because if for instance we want to address diabetes in Brooklyn and Queens, that’s what needs to be done”, shares Elizabeth Stevens, President of the Coalition of the Concerned Medical Professionals.
One more important concept implemented by RADA is focusing on abilities rather than disabilities. It sounds like such a human thing to do, yet somehow we get so absorbed by dealing with “disabilities” that forget about people behind the word. Award-winning jazz pianist, Justin Kauflin, whom you might know from documentary, “Keep On Keepin’ On,” was genuinely touched, touched to tears when he first heard from Doctor Sumareva that RADA’s philosophy is to see abilities. Justin began his musical journey at age 4 and by age of 6, was performing in concerts, nursing homes and weddings, eventually becoming concertmaster for several orchestras. Sadly, it was during this time he also lost vision due to a rare eye disease. The total blindness however didn’t stop the 11 years old boy from exploring the world of music further and building up his carrier. My guess, a good number of jazz lovers really grateful for Justin’s everyday courage.
“They looked at me, but only saw my wheelchair,” remembers Vlady Gurari, Esq. It took Vlady 2 years, after receiving degree in law, to find a job. For the first year and half he would send out about 20 CV each day, honestly mentioning his disabilities in the resume… And not a single respond came through. Then Vlady decided not to mention his health condition at all, and thus he would get appointments. However once potential employers would see his wheelchair, the questions asked during the job interviews would have no relations to his profession and it was obvious they are not going to hire him. Now Vlady works as a Counsel on Government Relations and Regulations Hivrat Hashmal, Israel. His boss told him once, “When you work, I don’t see your disability.”
Third concept RADA has been successfully implementing is encouraging students to get involved in charity work. Doctor Sumareva convinced, “It’s pretty straight forward really, if youth don’t get involved today who we would count on to continue our work in the future? Besides, kids are very talented, they have these wonderful, creative and bright ideas. One example–our Special Care for Special Needs video-promo was compiled by a 15 years girl!”
Rachel Motsenyar also joined RADA Special Care for Special Needs Campaign round table last week. Rachel is currently a student and spends her breaks between semesters working at Camp HASC to brighten up days of kids and adults with special needs, “Giving truly feels like receiving to me, it’s very fulfilling. I joined the Special Care for Special Needs discussion to see if I can be of a help somehow. Perhaps there are also some collaboration opportunities for our organizations; maybe we could host a fundraising together as well.”
Even though there are thousands of initiatives exist, public awareness of life and needs of people with limited abilities is still largely lacking. This is to say if you know anyone who is in need of special care or their relatives and friends are in search of advice and direction, please be sure to refer them to www.russiandentists.org. Despite the fact RADA doesn’t raise as much money as, let’s say, Red Cross, the association might be much more resourceful at a given situations thanks to a zero administrative cost and network of professionals who volunteer. This is to say if you would like to contribute, volunteer or have an extra space for a person in need in your heart, you now know one more place to go.