Bridge of Hope (BoH) is a non-governmental, non-profit, non-political organisation working in the Republic of Armenia. It was established in 1996 to help children with disabilities and their parents overcome their isolation and to help them participate in, and contribute to, the community on an equal basis with others. Specific aims include:
  • providing support and services to children who have disabilities or who are at risk of developing disabilities
  • making basic education accessible to children with disabilities
  • raising public awareness and addressing the prejudice, stereotypes, and attitudes that can harm or exclude people with disabilities
  • empowering parents of children with disabilities and fostering their participation in realising their children's rights
  • influencing changes in disability policy, practices, ideas and beliefs in the country.
Main Communication Strategies
BoH engages in a variety of advocacy efforts that focus on inclusion: not only allowing children with disabilities to be in close proximity with their peers, but maximising their full participation. BoH programmes aim to create equal opportunities and improve the conditions for children with disabilities so that they can achieve their own goals free from physical and attitudinal barriers. Here is a quick-list of this organisation's public awareness campaigns and policy advocacy work, which is conducted in close collaboration with governmental and non-governmental organisations:
  • publishes the magazine "Sunflower", which was founded in 1999 with the support of Oxfam and the British Embassy in Armenia. Children with and without disabilities from schools in Yerevan and BoH work together to create each issue of the magazine, which may be downloaded on the BoH site (click on the sunflower icon, left navigation bar). Also distributed in schools, the magazine aims to change children's attitudes toward persons with disabilities
  • organises theatrical performances with the help of a group of disabled and non-disabled children from different institutions
  • conducts advocacy training for parents of children with disabilities in urban and rural areas
  • provides in-service trainings for teachers from regular schools to help meet the special educational needs of disabled children
  • creates videos with messages such as "Happy Childhood and Better Education FOR ALL CHILDREN". For instance, "Your Peers" and "I Go to School" focus on the educational and artistic achievements of children with disabilities who attend regular and special schools (one child lives in an orphanage). The films have been shown on many TV channels
  • publishes brochures for parents, educators, NGOs, and journalists in an effort to raise awareness of children's rights and the concept of a social approach to disability issues
  • translates publications such as "UN Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities" into Armenian and distributes them to persons who seek to create environments free from barriers for people with disabilities
  • initiates the formation of groups, including a working group of representatives from NGOs and officials within the Ministry of Social Security to measure the Armenian laws against the aforementioned UN document
  • holds roundtable discussions, trainings, and seminars for parents and journalists
  • creates posters with messages such as "Equal Opportunities for All"
To cite an example of one such advocacy project, in 2002-2003 BoH and 3 Commonwealth of the Independent States (CIS) disability NGOs (Regional Society of Disabled People - Perspektiva, (Russia), Lotus, (Azerbaijan), and GDWIA (Georgian Disabled Women International Association) - implemented "Disability and Mass Media" with the support of Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation, Budapest and Armenia. The project sought to achieve awareness raising of journalists/public on disability issues (particularly on social model of disability) and to increase the capacity of disability NGOs in 4 CIS countries (Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) to work effectively with the media. A key goal was to establish a regional disability network in these countries. Seminars and round tables with journalists were carried out; TV, radio, and print media pieces, solicited by BoH's media team, covered disability topics; 2 guides (for journalists and for disability NGOs) were published; 4 video reels were made and demonstrated; and public education activities were held. BoH then shared project experiences with other NGOs in the country, assisting them in their efforts to collaborate with the media. It also periodically presented the activities of organisations working in this field in issues of "Sunflower".

BoH has also established 3 community-based centres in the Tavush region (Dilijan, Ijevan, and Berd). The centres provide psychosocial rehabilitation services to children with disabilities and their families, as well as to non-disabled children living in poverty. They also support the development of inclusive education practices in the regions and provide in-service training to teachers from regular schools to prepare them to teach children with disabilities. The centres provide leadership and human rights training for parents in an effort to foster their active participation in the programme and to help them reach their full potential to help their children. They promote and support research on disability issues in the region and support advocacy processes and campaigns. Resources and counseling services on social and human rights issues are offered. A key focus is helping children develop their social skills to participate in school and community life. Central to the learning experience is socialisation through art therapy, speech development, life skills, and physical therapy. Children learn to cooperate and share with peers, to take part in group activities and talks, and to take responsibility for their own actions and for their own learning. Through individualised programmes, children develop skills supportive of social interaction and participation.

The BoH site is a tool for sharing information and resources related to disability. The "Publications" page provides a list of brochures, films, social video reels, and posters for download or purchase.
Development Issues: 

Children, Youth, Disabilities, Rights, Education.

Key Points: 

According to BoH, existing rehabilitation, social services, and disability NGOs in Armenia are mainly based in (and work in) Yerevan. Boh claims that these organisations reach no more than 2% of children with disabilities and their families - services are mostly inaccessible to remote rural areas of Armenia. Furthermore, BoH claims, local governments provide very limited services to children with disabilities. As a result, many of these children grow up in isolation and are excluded from the education system.

Partner Text: 

Click here (and then select "Partners") to view a full list of partners, which includes government ministries, local governments, schools, libraries, healthcare institutions, local NGOs, international organisations and foundations, NGOs of CIS countries, the mass media, and the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Source: 

Posting to the Young People's Media Network on February 27 2004 (click here for the archives); and BoH site.