Keystone Moldova - A Short History

Charles Hooker (CEO of Keystone Human Services International (KHSI), USA and Dennis Felty (Founding President of Keystone Human Services (KHS), USA) visited Moldova several times at the initiative of Janice Wenger. They visited different institutions, families, established connections with NGOs and colleges. These visits helped them understand the needs of persons with disabilities and other the vulnerable families from Moldova. Based on an agreement with a local college, social work students were invited for internships in KHS services.

Founded in 2003 by Keystone Human Services International, Keystone Moldova has a strong history of promoting human rights, working toward inclusion, and establishing community-based systems of social care services. Partnering with national and local governments and advocates, Keystone Moldova works to reform the social protection system and develop sustainable community-based services so people with disability can leave the institutions and live valued lives in the community with full access to their human rights.

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The Community Center “Unitate” from Tudora village, Stefan Voda rayon was started by an alumni of the internship program, with the support of KHSI. Liliana Malancea was impressed with the Head Start services that provided social and educational support for children from vulnerable families in USA. She decided that her native community, Tudora, needs such a service. Liliana developed a business plan and presented it to KHSI Board of Directors. She got the funding that allowed her to buy an old house and the necessary funding to run the activities with the children. The center facility was adapted to provide all the services and to prepare and serve the meals. The center was called “Unitate” and had the goal to provide afterschool daily support to 25 children of age 8 to 12 and 15 children once a week as part of the youth club. The group of specialists developed the programs based on the needs of the children: social and educational support, psychologic counseling, art and vocational activities, hygiene services and meals. The children attending the center showed better school results, became more sociable and had increased self-esteem. In 2013 based on an agreement with the local authorities, the center was moved to the local school and continues to provide the services in a larger space. The old house was transformed into a multifunctional museum “La Bunici” (At the Grandparents). Within the museum the children can learn interesting facts about Tudora village history and can learn how to make traditional crafts using the pottery wheel, can weave traditional rugs, etc. Starting with 2003 up to the present the center and the museum is financed by KHS, USA.

Keystone Moldova was officially registered at the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Moldova. The administrative office was established in Chisinau. All the legal procedures were put in place to run the organization.

The Community Center “Vis” from Bacioi village (Chisinau municipality). The Bacioi center was established through a grant offered by the European Commission and co-financed by KHSI in partnership with Bacioi Local Authorities. The center was developed within the local primary school. The center was called “Vis” and had the goal to provide afterschool daily support to 25 children of age 8 to 12 and 15 children once a week as part of the youth club. The group of specialists developed the programs based on the needs of the children: social and educational support, psychologic counseling, art and vocational activities, computer classes, hygiene services and meals. The specialists were also providing home visits to the children with disabilities who couldn’t come to the center. The staff were actively involved in different fundraising activities with the aim to support the poor families. The children attending the center showed better school results, became more sociable and had increased self-esteem.

Establishment and implementation of Community for All Moldova Program (C4A-Moldova) jointly with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Protection. Some results of the implementation of C4A-Moldova Program see below:

Community for All Moldova

In 2008, Keystone Moldova established and implemented the Community for All Moldova Program (C4A-Moldova) jointly with the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Social Protection. Some results of this ongoing project include:

Deinstitutionalization and social inclusion of children and adults with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities.
The primary aim of the C4A Moldova Program was to support reform of the system of care and social protection for persons with mental disabilities, including children, in the Republic of Moldova to improve their social inclusion in the community. Keystone Moldova was advancing this goal by working to improve the legal frameworks and regulations in the field of social protection and assistance of people with disabilities, and by piloting new community-based services that meet the varying needs of children with intellectual disabilities, people with mental health and their families/caregivers. Keystone Moldova has been actively involved in the development of social inclusion public policies: Law on social inclusion ; Regulations and Quality Standards of seven newly developed types of community based social services; Funding reallocation and residential institutions evaluation methodologies; National strategies on social inclusion (2009-2013 and 2017-2021) National Program on deinstitutionalization (2018-2022); new disability determination mechanism; mechanisms for preventing the institutionalization; approval of minimum package of social care services; in-depth evaluation and development of transformation plans for 6 residential institutions for people with intellectual and psiho-social disabilities, including two for children with severe disabilities. With the support of various donors (Open Society Foundations, Soros Foundation Moldova, and European Commission) Keystone Moldova developed 101 community-based services: Community Homes, Supported Living, Mobile Teams, Foster Care, Respite Service, Shared Living Services, Day Care services for vulnerable children, Personal assistant service, foster care for children with severe disabilities, etc. All the services are financed from the state budget. Also, Keystone Moldova provided support on the development of 14 community housing services from the state budget based on Keystone models. As a result of above mentioned 425 people, including children, moved from institutions to community living, over 650 children with severe disabilities are benefiting annually of Mobile Teams services, and over 3,000 children and adults with severe disabilities are benefiting annually of personal assistant services. Over 4,500 public authorities’ representatives and services staff were capacitated in deinstitutionalization and social inclusion.

Promotion and implementation of inclusive education of children with physical and intellectual disabilities.
Jointly with other NGOs, Keystone Moldova supported the Ministry of Education to develop the methodology for inclusive education that was extended nationwide. With the support of Open Society Foundations/ Early Childhood Program, Keystone Moldova implemented inclusive education in 37 educational settings and supported the inclusive education of more than 300 children with disabilities and special educational needs. Keystone Moldova also supported the development of more than 80 educational support services, including 37 multidisciplinary commissions, 22 resource centers, 25 support teachers. More than 700 teachers, support services staff, and 1,200 parents have been incapacitated in inclusive education.

Fighting discrimination and increasing the awareness and promotion of social inclusion of people with mental disabilities.
In this respect, 8 media communication campaigns were organized, numerous printed materials for general public and specialists were developed and distributed, over 150 Forum Theatre performances in schools with the involvement of over 15,000 children, teachers and parents were delivered. Journalists and journalism students were capacitated in the correct and nondiscriminatory way of communication with and about the people with disabilities.

Empowering people with disabilities to fight for their rights.
Twenty-six self-advocacy groups and advocacy groups were developed and capacitated. Four hundred forty people with disabilities and their parents learned how to advocate for their rights and are actively involved in promoting their rights to accessible education, employment, health and support services, participating in decision making processes. Over 2,200 people from the residential institutions increased their knowledge on human rights. People that left the institutions previously are acting as coaches and help their peers from to integrate in the society. People with disabilities are actively involved in policy development and monitoring at national and local levels, as well as in the development of alternative reports on the implementation of the UNCRPD in Moldova.

Developing and delivering a national complaint mechanism for people with disabilities.
Keystone Moldova with EU support developed a hotline service for reporting the abuses on people with disabilities, including children. Since June 2019 the Hotline service became a national complaint mechanism and is paid from the state budget. Keystone Moldova got accreditation and was hired by the National Agency on Social Assistance for delivering hotline services. People from the institution and communities have the possibility to get free specialized support or report the violations of their rights. The hotline receives and offers support for solving to around 2,800 calls a year; around 50% of then are from residential institutions. Five to seven percent of calls annually address the rights violation cases and are referred to legal NGOs for support and act.

Economic empowerment of people with disabilities.
Keystone Moldova is working on the economic empowerment of people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities by helping them to enter the open labor market, support them and their families to start a small business and by developing social economy activities. In this regard, in 2019 Keystone Moldova registered a social enterprise “EcoVox group” which covers a workshop that employs people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities to sew bags and a Training Center fully adapted for wheelchair users and rented for various events. All profits from these social economy activities is used for the support of people who have left institutions.

Strengthening the capacities of grassroots CSOs in social inclusion of people with disabilities.
Keystone Moldova capacitated and mentored over 130 grassroots CSOs in public-private partnerships for social inclusion of persons with disabilities. The CSOs learned how to develop inclusive community environments and to design and deliver sustainable community-based services for persons with disabilities and vulnerable children. They also learned and applied in practice the accountability mechanisms to require the local public authorities to deliver qualitative services based on needs to people with disabilities. Because of Keystone Moldova’s mentoring and coaching, the local CSOs developed in partnership with national and local governments 44 community-based services. More than 1,300 people with disabilities and children from vulnerable families are benefitting annually of those services.

Provision of international expertise.
Keystone Moldova provided consultancy for UNICEF Kazakhstan and Ministry of Health and Social Development of Kazakhstan on developing the road map on deinstitutionalization and social inclusion of children from 0 to 3 and children with disabilities, as well as capacity building activities for Azerbaijan CSOs, Tajikistan CSOs, Belarus CSOs, Turkish CSOs, Ukraine CSOs, Russian CSOs, Romania CSOs, Hans Foundation, India CSOs, and CSOs members of EASPD on social inclusion of persons with disabilities in line with the UNCRPD.

Values that Guide Our Work

 Learn more about the values and ideas that guide everything we do to promote social inclusion.