Under the totalitarian regime of the former Soviet Union, sadly, the worth of a person was measured by their capacity for being “productive”. Those who appeared weak, disabled or in any way needy and thus incapable of bringing benefit to the State had no value for the system and were denied even the minimum necessary resources for life in society. They were forced to live in isolation and rejection, locked away in far-off “social reservations” – institutions/internats, or alternately hidden from view by their families in shame and painful humiliation. Parents of infants born with a disability were most often encouraged by doctors and medical staff to abandon their child to an institution. There were no resources or services available to help the family raise the child in a secure home environment. Even in the context of the Church, a child’s disability was often interpreted as punishment from God, thus contributing further to the stigma experienced and to the prevalent lack of awareness and discrimination.
With Ukraine’s independence, on the initiative of parents of the “Nadiya” (“Hope”) Association for children with cerebral palsy, together with volunteers from the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada, the Dzherelo Children’s Rehabilitation Centre was founded in December 1993 to provide the necessary rehabilitation and educational services for children with physical and developmental disabilities.