Seeing ability in disability

In a society striving for equality and inclusiveness, it is crucial to provide support and opportunities for everyone to thrive. Recognising this need, a project funded by the EEA Grants Local Development programme in Cyprus aims to create a multifunctional community centre that offers tailor-made services and support to people with disabilities and their families. The ultimate goal is to enhance the quality of life of people with disabilities and facilitate their successful inclusion into society. 

Multifunctional Community Centre in Filani. © Lina Marcinkutė.
Multifunctional Community Centre in Filani. © Lina Marcinkutė.

1 in 6 people live with disabilities

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 1.3 billion people worldwide,  (16% of the global population) or 1 in 6 people, experience a significant disability today. The number has been increasing over the past decades and is projected further to grow due to demographic and epidemiological changes.

Despite their entitlement to the same rights as those without disabilities, people with disabilities often face significant barriers in various areas such as healthcare, education, and employment. These barriers further impede their full and equal participation in society and contribute to their increased vulnerability. The latest WHO Global report on health equity for persons with disabilities shows that while some progress has been made in recent years, the world still has a long way to go in realising the full rights for many people with disabilities who continue to die earlier, have poorer health, and experience more limitations in everyday functioning than others.

"Persons with disabilites face unnumberable difficulties in their daily life. Together, we must lift those barriers so that all of ous can enjoy equal rights and opportunities" EU Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli  

Disability impacts not only people with disabilities but also their families. Various studies have shown the wide-ranging effects of disability on family members, including higher levels of stress, increased caregiving demands, financial burdens, social isolation, and reduced participation in community activities.

A first of its kind

Cyprus currently lacks a facility or an institution that offers a wide range of services for people with disabilities in a single place. Moreover, the existing structures and services offered such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, psychotherapy, and hydrotherapy are limited. These shortcomings have prompted the creation of a project, born out of the first-hand experience of Ms Thekla Kallika, Coordinator of the St. Louca’s Community, and her husband, Costas. As parents to two grown-up children with complex disabilities, they have personally experienced the limited resources, facilities, and infrastructure available for people with disabilities in Cyprus today.

"The project originated from our own need as parents - an uphill struggle we have to combat every day. The willingness to see this project through completion comes from our hearts" Ms Thekla Kallika, Coordinator of the St Louca's Community and mother of two kids with disabilities  
Ms Thekla KallikaMs Thekla Kallika giving a speech at one event organised at the Multifunctional Community Centre ©St. Loucas Community.

Addressing this pressing need, the upcoming Multifunctional Community Centre in Filani will be a pioneering establishment, offering a comprehensive range of healthcare and support services in one place for people with disabilities. By consolidating a diverse array of services under one roof, the Centre will greatly alleviate the challenges faced by people with disabilities and their families.

“Caring for people with disabilities presents a unique set of complex challenges requiring a multifaceted approach.  The Multifunctional Community Centre for people with special needs will enable people facing such needs to receive treatment and support for emotional, physical, behavioral, sensory, communication and any other need, under one roof”, said Leda Skordelli, National Focal Point of the EEA and Norway Grants in Cyprus .

A piece of a larger puzzle

The overall vision for the Centre is an expansive 6700 m² complex, comprising a three-storey main building surrounded by six independent houses, a building for volunteers, and outward facilities for entertainment, sport, and creative activities. With a total construction cost estimated at over €8 million, the Centre is expected to be completed in four independent stages. The construction of the main building, Phase I, began in 2019 and was funded through own resources. In 2020, the EEA Grants support (€1.7 million) has enabled the progression into Phase II, entailing the completion of the entire basement and two of the independent houses. Both phases will be completed by April 2024, after which the Centre can be operational. In 2022, the Centre has also received funding from the 2014-2020 Interreg (cross-border cooperation) Greece-Cyprus programme to implement energy saving measures.

Overall vision of the centre by St. Loucas CommunityThe overall vision of the centre by St. Loucas Community. © Lina Marcinkutė.

The Centre is located in a picturesque natural setting, on the land granted by the Machairas Monastery for this special purpose. It has been thoughtfully designed with great care and attention to every little detail, including the choice of materials, colours, of both the interior and the exterior. Recognising the uniqueness of each disability, the facilities have also been designed to accommodate as much diversity as possible for both in-and outpatients. This reconfirms that the utmost priority is given to the well-being, comfort, and safety of people with disabilities and their families. In addition, the building is environmentally friendly and has been designed and constructed with a focus on minimising its environmental impact and promoting sustainability.

Doors inside the Community CentreDoors inside the Multifunctional Community Centre. © Lina Marcinkutė.

Once operational, the Centre will be able to offer a wide range of tailor-made services and therapies designed to address the specific needs of people with disabilities and provide support to their families. These services include, but are not limited to physiotherapy, speech therapy, music therapy, occupational therapy, and hydrotherapy, all aimed at enhancing physical and cognitive abilities. Additionally, the Centre will provide day-care, overnight and permanent stay, recreational and developmental activities to cater to diverse needs. Through comprehensive range of services and therapies, the Centre will help people with disabilities to maximise their skills and abilities allowing them to be as independent of others as possible and enhance their social inclusion opportunities.

Team spirit has also been one of the driving forces of this project. The entire project team, the St. Loucas Community, are volunteers who invest their time, energy, and efforts with unwavering dedication to the project they believe in. That makes this Centre even more inspiring and uplifting.  ‘We recognise and appreciate the efforts of the project promoter and all the volunteers who embrace this project to ensure its smooth and timely completion, despite the challenges due to Covid-19, the sudden increase in the construction materials as well as the interrupted, at times, supply chain of materials from abroad. Due to the exceptional dedication and hard work of the project promoter, we have no doubt that the Centre will be ready on time and people with special needs will soon enjoy its services’, said Leda Skordelli, National Focal Point of the EEA and Norway Grants in Cyprus.

"The project is an act of selfless love by so many people who have joined us on our journey. It represents a genuine desire by all to contribute towards the common good" Ms Thekla Kallika  
A part of the St. Loucas Community teamA part of the St. Loucas Community team. © St. Loucas Community.

Thanks to the EEA Grants, the project Multifunctional Community Centre for people with special needs in Cyprus is creating a nurturing environment that fosters growth, development and the empowerment of people with disabilities. Because in the end, they are people, not just people with disabilities, and like everyone else, they deserve love, respect and the opportunity to develop.

Curious to know more about the EEA and Norway Grants in Cyprus? Find out more here.

Project Facts