On Tuesday, 29 June 2021, a sales exhibition was held in Užice under the slogan “Let’s Move the Boundaries of Humanity”. The exhibition was organised by the Association of Persons with Muscular Dystrophy of the Zlatibor District – Užice, in cooperation with the Association of Persons with Cerebral Palsy and Poliomyelitis of Užice, and with the support of the City of Užice.
The sales exhibition was organised within the second phase of the Local Initiatives Programme for Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction – Support to the Development of Innovative Social Inclusion Models – LIP 2, coordinated by the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia (SIPRU) with the support of the Swiss Government. The City of Užice participates in the LIP 2 programme with the project “Inclusive educational, counselling and socio-therapeutic centre for providing support to children with disabilities and persons with disabilities and their families in Užice” within which an innovative social protection service was piloted and established. The lead institution on the project is the City of Užice, the Association of Persons with Cerebral Palsy and Poliomyelitis of Užice is a mandatory partner, and the Association of Persons with Muscular Dystrophy of the Zlatibor District – Užice is the service provider of the Inclusive Counselling, Educational and Socio-Therapeutic Centre.
This service includes several different areas, i.e., programmes, one of which is the Creative and Occupational Work Programme, which was realised through four different creative workshops: art, pottery, acting and music. These creative and motor skills have contributed to the improvement of creative and work skills, motor skills, as well as raising the level of self-confidence of users.
The idea of organising the exhibition arose during these workshops, from the interaction between the participants and their mentors/professional associates and the exchange of information during the creative work. The original idea was to organise an exhibition of works created at art and pottery workshops as the event marking the end of the project in order to promote this innovative service and display the works. When this idea was further discussed with the children, the programme implementation team concluded that it would be wonderful to sell these artworks (for symbolic amounts) and give the collected funds to someone who needs them. The children enthusiastically accepted the idea, as did their parents, who were very interested in the exhibition and the purchase of these artworks. Therefore, a decision was made quickly regarding the end recipient of whatever amount was collected that day. The funds will go to pre-schooler Bogdan Knežević, a student of the Elementary School “Nada Matić” in Užice and the youngest member of the Association of Persons with Muscular Dystrophy of the Zlatibor District – Užice, who suffers from a highly progressive form of muscular dystrophy (Duchenne muscular dystrophy). At this moment, he needs the funds so he can go to regular therapy/rehabilitation provided in the spa located in Trepča, which his parents have to finance from their income. Since Bogdan was diagnosed with MD, his parents spend most of their monthly income on daily therapies, vitamin and mineral supplements that Bogdan must take, as well as on other activities that slow down the progression of his condition and enable him to walk independently for as long as possible. All participants agreed that the entire income of the sales exhibition should be given to Bogdan, believing that it is an appropriate way to mark the success of the project and the establishment of this innovative service and promote social inclusion.
All participants were involved in the preparation and organisation of the exhibition: under the mentorship of teacher Radovan Pavlović, Art School professor Ana Lazić, and workshop coordinators, children – participants of creative workshops made artworks and prepared the booths and the space where the exhibition was held. The children were also in charge of sales, and they were highly motivated and ready to discuss their work and topics covered during the art workshops (Picasso, fractals, collage techniques, still life, Rorschach stains, etc.). Prices were not formed in advance, i.e., everyone could buy the artwork at a price they set. Long-term associates from the City Cultural Centre provided the space (GKC garden) and all the necessary accompanying equipment for the exhibition.
For the needs of the exhibition, two forex panels were made (one with the announcement of the exhibition, the other with photos of the works and participants of the workshops), which were displayed at the exhibition. During the event, the organisers also planned to screen the recording of the puppet play “Lion and Mouse”, which was created during the Creative Programme workshop, and with which the participants won 2nd place at the II Puppet Online Festival in Aranđelovac (May 2021). Unfortunately, on this occasion, the daylight did not allow the play to be showcased in full glory; however, the video can be viewed on the Facebook page of the Association of Persons with Muscular Dystrophy of the Zlatibor District – Užice.
The invitation to visit the humanitarian exhibition was sent to all project associates, representatives of SIPRU, GIZ, the City of Užice, the Centre for Social Work Užice and the City Centre for Social Welfare Services, schools attended by participants of the Creative Programme, organisations of persons with disabilities from the area, parents, and the media, who have made a significant contribution to promoting the service Inclusive Counselling, Educational and Socio-Therapeutic Centre.
Biljana Subotić, assistant project coordinator (CSO representative), and Radovan Pavlović, coordinator of the art and drama section, greeted everyone with a short informal address at the beginning of the event and opened the humanitarian sales exhibition “Let’s Move the Boundaries of Humanity”, followed by a brief statement for the representatives of the media: TV 5 Užice, Radio Luna and Portal Užice – Notice Board.
The provision and development of the service Inclusive Counselling, Educational and Socio-Therapeutic Centre for Support to Children with Disabilities and Persons with Disabilities and their Families in the City of Užice will continue. All programmes within the service will be realised by the end of the current year, financed through the budget of the City of Užice for 2021. The project team continues the endeavour that began with the support of SIPRU, with the hope that the City of Užice will continue to recognise the needs of citizens and the potential of this innovative social protection service.