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Swings for the “different” children of Bulgaria – scales of goodness and children’s smiles

It was started a year ago at a children’s playground in Sofia – first it originated as an idea for a photographic exhibition and then came the idea for the so-called balance swings especially designed for children in wheelchairs.

The idea belongs to Anna Yoncheva – a technical assistant in a large company for importing cars, also a mother of two kids. Just as everyone of us, she is well aware of the fact that the topic of children with disabilities is often on the public agenda. Usually, in the spotlight come the issues of medical care, the finances needed to cover the cost of living, their educational requirements. Yet Anna’s perspective on them is that of a mother who is well familiar with the importance of games in early childhood and the amount of “invisible” information that children exchange and absorb when they communicate with their peers outside nurseries, schools, and so on.

“The idea started with an unpleasant incident”, Anna Yoncheva explains. “A classmate of my daughter told her not to play with a child in a wheelchair because the child, he said, was “contagious”. At this point I decided I wanted to take photos of these children so I could show they are just like all other kids, to make them “more visible”. As I don’t know such kids in my immediate surroundings, I made a Facebook group and described my idea. It spread very fast and perhaps only a week later I organized an event. All participants met in a park and that’s when my first models showed up and I got to know them and took their photos. Gradually, I started to organize meetings where we mainly bring children with special needs together with their peers. Thus they learn how to play and communicate normally”.

The main purpose of Anna’s project is to show those children which, for a large part of society, remain invisible. It turns out it is always difficult to find a place for them in kindergartens, in kids’ playgrounds, in schools… This in August 2019 the campaign “Let’s play together” was launched.

Gradually the idea for the balance swings came to life as they offer a very suitable way of integrating the “different” children. This balance swing is adapted for kids unable to use a regular swing. Until now, 6 such swings have been manufactured as two of them have already been mounted – one in Sofia and one in Pleven. Several others are to be installed – in Vratsa, Stara Zagora, Sevlievo, and Razgrad. Anna hopes that at least another two will be placed in Sofia.

“For me as the author of the project, the most important thing is that the idea was well-accepted by society. Absolutely all swings have been purchased with funds donated by people. I would like to thank everyone who supported me. You cannot achieve anything alone,” Anna Yoncheva believes.

So far, two successful exhibitions have been held that bring funds for the campaign to a special account. The project will soon mark one year since its creation. And on February 23 at the City Stage Club in central Sofia, a rock concert will be held to promote the idea. Popular Bulgarian performers will play in support of the children, such as Vasko aka The Patch, bands like The Case, Yambadon, Expose Team, Time Jugglers, as well as the original Balkanji band whose music is inspired by Bulgarian folklore. Anna Yordanova hopes that with the funds raised, as well as through the cooperation of different municipalities, the "balance swings of goodness and children's smiles" will reach all "different" children.

English Rossitsa Petcova

Photos: private library

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