THE PRIMATE HELPS THE DISABLED
We hear more and more often about how much the state spends on the Church. But nobody estimates what the Church is doing for this state and its citizens. Because who, for example, knows that in a small village in the Lesser Poland province, near Tarnów, there is a super centre for disabled children thanks to engagement and inspiration of archbishop Józef Kowalczyk? And that not only they receive help and care there?
Jadowniki Mokre is a small village among forests. It is 30 km to Tarnów from here, much further to Cracow, but roads in the area are not bad, so contact with the rest of the world is not a problem. Except for winter when snow covers fields and roads.
Jadowniki Mokre has today about a thousand villagers. Ages ago, poisoned arrows were produced here, hence its name (wet poison). Today the reason for pride is a man who comes from here – archbishop Józef Kowalczyk, the primate of Poland, who, since the Second World War, has been the apostolic nuncio in Poland. Although there is nobody of this surname in this village, many villagers maintain the opinion that they are related to the Archbishop, which can be the truth because it is an old village and nobody from here had moved to the world till the times of the great emigration for bread to America.
He would gain favour of people and institutions
The Primate never forgot his beautiful family village. He used to return here for years not only for sentimental reasons. Inhabitants of the village say that he has always been interested in the fate of his compatriots and this fate was rather poor and tough. It was Primate Kowalczyk who in 1997 gave an idea of establishing a self-help facility for children in Jadowniki Mokre. First only for the children from the area, and when the project developed, it was spread further. It turned out that the facility can help children not only from the area but also from the whole diocese of Tarnów, and even from Poland. The Nuncio encouraged not only the local bishop – Józef Życiński but also an ambassador of Italy – Giuseppe Balboni to support this venture. In building this centre projected by an architect Maciej Nejman, he managed to gain the favour of many prominent people: politicians, diplomats, clergy. Surely, thanks to the person of the Nuncio, the project was also supported by the institutions such as: European Integration Committee, Embassy of the Italian Republic, PFRON, Apostolic Nunciature, Foundation ‘Renovabis’ from Germany, Malta Service from Trevis, ASIF. Also bishop of Tarnów Wiktor Skworc, the Voivode of Tarnów at that time Wiesław Woda, believers of the diocese of Tarnów, as well as individual donors from Poland and the USA contributed to the establishment of the centre. The rest of expenditures were covered by the Caritas of the Diocese of Tarnów which became the owner of the centre.
The project was developing and changing during building the centre. There were comments with accusations of an unsuitable, because a rural localization of the centre – however, it turned out soon that it hit the jackpot. In Poland there are not many institutions dealing with rehabilitation of disabled children and care about them. Children from rural areas have a twice difficult situation. The best evidence – the nearest institution of the similar character is in Białka Tatrzańska, whereas another one is in Cracow.
A small village with a big centre
Arriving in the village, it is easy to notice the building of the centre. It is a big and well-kept complex in which not only children but also adults are rehabilitated today. It consists of: Social Care House for Intellectually Disabled Children and Youth, Therapeutic Rehabilitation Centre, Private Primary School for the Disabled, Private Junior High School for the Disabled, Private School Adopting to Work, Childcare Facility of Daily Support, Crisis Intervention Centre and even Hydrotherapy Centre because there is a brand new indoor swimming pool here.
Fr. Marek Kogut has been the director of the centre since 2001. It is the only priest at home, not including two Albertine sisters who live next door. What is important – in the region which is touched by big unemployment about 100 people work. The staff are therapists, pedagogues, doctors, nurses, psychologists, speech therapists, dogotherapists, instructors of occupational therapy, carers of the disabled, as well as administrative-office workers or hosts.
The stem is the Social Care House for disabled children. There are 17 children in our Social Care House. Some of them are already adults, but are still with us, because mentally they are still children – says Priest the Director. – We got emotionally attached to them, and they to us. They are disabled because of cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy and other neurological disorders.
- We want them to feel here like at home and we can make it. You can see how joyful and trustful they are – Adriana Błaszczyk says proudly, whom a little girl is stubbornly inviting for today’s teatime. – We opened a special primary school and high junior school for them. Our teachers are high-class specialists of oligophrenopedagogy, revalidation, tyflo-pedagogy, surdopedagogy. There are speech therapists, psychologists, therapists. – The director shows us round in classrooms which have two, sometimes four children. The bigger disability, the less pupils and more carers. Rooms are bright, cosy and warm. Children are looking at us with their trustful eyes, from mats, little armchairs and desks. – The effects of our work are sometimes visible not earlier than after 10 years’ time. – says the director. – This little girl has been with for a decade, but only now, after so many years of work with her, she has spoken for the first time. It turned out that she can speak. It is worth doing this job for such moments.
- After some time it turned out that a school making people adapted for work is needed - explains Fr. Kogut. It is three-year-old Upper Secondary school designed for young people mentally handicapped to a moderate and to a large extent, and with locomotor and conjugated disability. In this school there are classes of widely understood household. We intend to prepare disabled youth to function in the society.
Rehabilitation available for everybody
The centre is teeming with life, which we can observe when crossing its threshold. Esthetically, and what is more important – cozily furnished interiors make an excellent impression. One group have just left, and another group is arriving. About 50 people use rehabilitation even at one time. The centre offers a wide range of modern rehabilitation and therapeutic methods. Rehabilitation lasts 14 days, and thanks to financing by the National Rehabilitation Fund of Disabled People, they are available for many families. The centre from Jadowniki Mokre must have a good opinion because sometimes there are people here from another part of Poland. Being glad, they want to ‘hammer down’ the next date of their rehabilitation. - In order to come back to us, it is necessary to wait for two years, as the list of applicants is so long. The rehabilitations are funded by the National Rehabilitation Fund of Disabled People, and it is possible to gain surcharge for the second part, for example, from Caritas – explains Adriana Błaszczyk. – Then a family do not pay for the time of stay with us with their own money.
During rehabilitation stays friendships are made which last even after the leave from Jadowniki Mokre. Children plan their next meetings together and – in our opinion – it proves that they feel well in our centre, not only have a good treatment, but they also have a good rest – says Priest the Director.
What does the centre offer?
- Therapies of physiotherapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy. We also offer psychological and speech therapy consultations, as well as a group social rehabilitation. Since we have the swimming pool and a salt cave, we invite everyone to use these places. The most modern thing is multisensory simulation, that is, the so-called a room of experiencing the world, and last summer we also started horticultural therapy – says Fr. Kogut. – The whole rehabilitation facility serves not only to people who arrive to our centre for rehabilitation. Within the Treatment Rehabilitation Centre which has a contract with the National Health Fund, every day we help ill people from nearby area. If it was not for our centre, in practice they would not have any chance for rehabilitation. These are often elderly people, who are also wearied and senile, who will not go anywhere further – and, in this way, they have a centre within easy reach, equipped in a modern way.
The intention of archbishop Kowalczyk was organizing a place in the village for children from the nearby area. From the beginning he wanted them to have a place to do their homework, make up of their overdue, eat something warm, and play….He often returned to this topic, therefore, at the centre mainly aimed at rehabilitation of children, there appeared an Institution of Daily Support, which functions in the afternoons 5 days a week.- Every day about 15 children come here – explains Priest the Director. The supplement of the Institution is the Crisis Intervention Centre, supporting victims of domestic violence, people struggling with life trauma, such as death of somebody from a family, loss of job or educational problems. Here there is also helpline.
A bishop with a plow in the coat of arms
On the other side of the road, nearly opposite the buildings complex of the centre, there is another house drawing our attention with its big size – it is the Chamber of Memory of John Paul II, a two-level museum created out of exhibits belonging to the primate Kowalczyk (among the others, the papal cassock and a zucchetto, given to archbishop Kowalczyk by blessed John Paul II on Santa Claus’ day, as well as skiing boots and googles of the Blessed and many other souvenirs). There were exhibits connected with the primate Kowalczyk, among the others, fountain-pen, with which the apostolic nuncio signed the concordat in Poland after the war. There are also valuable documents and books. Archbishop Kowalczyk gave his private collection of books to the communal-parish library in Jadowniki Mokre. – This Chamber of Memory is an evidence of gratitude and pride – nobody has been born in Jadowniki so far who would be more significant than the Priest Primate. When he comes here, he goes for a walk, talks with people, behaves as an ordinary man who returns to the place of his childhood with sentiment – explains Fr. Kogut. – People know and like the Primate, I often heard how they said about it. They are impressed by the fact that he did not forget where he comes from. They are impressed that he placed a plow in his bishopric coat of arms – the symbol of his origin – adds the Priest the Director. What is more, the Priest Primate with his sister gave his family house with garden to his protégés of the Centre.