Behind the stark white walls of Lalla Hasna’s Baouafi orphanage in Casablanca lie hundreds of children that have been abandoned by their parents. One child came here with autism, another with downs syndrome. Room after room, children cover their faces with blankets in the middle of the day, wide awake but with nothing to do but lay in their beds. For the most part, these children are confined to bunks along the walls. The staff is inadequate to deal with the number of children. Most are deprived of access to the outdoors, human touch or even basic human interaction. They are young — and, like an overwhelmingly high number of Morocco’s orphans, they suffer from a wide range of physical and mental disabilities.
UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2016 reports that children with disabilities are the most marginalized in the world and are among the first to be excluded from the education system. Unfortunately, in Morocco and around the world, disabled children are also among the first to be abandoned by their families.
At BLOOM, one of our primary goals is to provide accessible spaces to children with disabilities. Among all the children in Moroccan orphanages, they have the lowest chances of getting adopted, access to education or leading productive lives. Lack of access to school increases vulnerability and poverty and makes these children more likely to suffer social exclusion, violence and discrimination.
In Morocco, orphanages aren’t well informed about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and inclusive education policies are practically non-existent. Thus, orphans with disabilities face multiple layers of discrimination. Additionally, the support given to children with disabilities is almost exclusively medical. Little effort is made towards social integration in their communities and school environments.
Every child, including children with disabilities, has the right to accessible spaces and a quality, inclusive basic education.
BLOOM’s Magical PlayGarden Campaign provides safe, accessible spaces for orphans with all ranges of disabilities. They are designed to support mental health, physical health and academic achievement for all children, regardless of their physical or mental handicaps. The PlayGardens include sensory garden elements, developed specifically with disabled children in mind.
Research demonstrates that gardens and plant care help children with both cognitive and physical disabilities develop crucial knowledge, skills, emotional regulation, and self-reliance.
As a result of this research, there has been a growing movement to include what are known as “sensory healing gardens” in many schools for children with disabilities, as well as in children’s hospitals. Healing gardens are designed to “systematically and sensitively nourish the five basic senses.” They are particularly beneficial to children with sensory processing issues, such as autism. They have also been shown to help with anxiety, fidgeting and disorders such as ADHD. The gardens also serve as a serene, calming oasis and help to emotionally ground the children. BLOOM ensures accessibility to children with all kinds of disabilities, including those in wheelchairs.
Today, BLOOM observes The International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a day proclaimed by the UN to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. At BLOOM, we are determined to create inclusive, accessible spaces to ensure that hope blooms for all children in orphanages.