Redefining Dance (Wheelchair Included): Kostya’s Story
- By The Global Fund for Children on April 1st, 2014
- Region: Europe and Eurasia, Featured, Success Stories
If you saw Kostya on the street, it probably wouldn’t occur to you that he could be a dancer. It had never occurred to Kostya, either. Or his parents or peers.
Requiring a wheelchair since age 11, Kostya didn’t think he could do a lot of things that most children do—like go to school, or have a social life. That is, until he started working with the staff at the Association of Disabled Young People of the Eastern Donbass (AMI-East).
With the support of GFC donors, AMI-East helps children with disabilities to discover their strengths, build confidence and independence, and show the world that they are worthy of dignity and respect. AMI-East began working with Kostya shortly after the spinal injury that disabled him, helping his family to adapt to Kostya’s new reality.
The staff at AMI-East offers an impressive level of personalized attention to each child who comes through the doors. All children—regardless of ability level—are invited to discover their talents and dreams through classes in guitar, painting, choreography, wheelchair sports, and more. Hundreds of severely disabled children attend AMI-East’s creative arts classes each week.
After Kostya attended his first creative arts class with AMI-East, he fell in love with dance.
Now 18, Kostya performs at regional and national festivals. He has appeared on television, has given radio interviews, and with the encouragement of AMI-East, attended high school for his senior year.
As Kostya has learned to value his abilities and his future, others have, too. Kostya’s high school installed special wooden ramps to accommodate his wheelchair. And when he decided to go to college, the administration—which had heard of the young man’s talent and popularity—equipped the dormitory to suit his needs. Kostya is now the first student living on campus who uses a wheelchair.
A tireless advocate for children’s rights, AMI-East also conducts inclusive-education seminars to educate teachers and administrators about integrating children with disabilities into mainstream schools.
“People can spend hours admiring Toulouse-Lautrec paintings, or listening to the music of Beethoven—giving absolutely no notice to the fact that they, too, had disabilities,” says AMI-East director Tatiana Barantsova, who moves with the help of a wheelchair. “A child suffering from cerebral palsy—let us also give him the freedom of creative flight.”