Posted by Betsy Closs

Founded in 1999, the Special Needs Education Resource Center (ERC) provides critical education, family support, and specialized medical consultation services to disabled children and their families in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. Without the ERC, many children needing special education services would not be permitted to attend school, leaving them vulnerable, undereducated, and severely at risk. The ERC provides families with the tools and emotional supports needed to keep their children at home in a healthy environment, while specialized medical consultation delivers expert attention to children with complex medical issues.

JF&CS recently hosted a breakfast with ERC Executive Director, Tamara Olchanitsky. Ms. Olchanitsky met with members of CJP Women's Philanthropy, who generously provided the funds for the ERC to purchase an accessible van that could transport its participants to and from the center. Ms. Olchanitsky shared many inspirational stories of the courageous work the staff of the ERC is doing for children with disabilities and their families in Dnepropetrovsk.

On a recent visit to the ERC, a volunteer was introduced to a young boy named Djenya, who has severe Cerebral Palsy. When he first came to the ERC he could not communicate verbally and was deemed "unteachable" by the local school system. The ERC's head teacher was thrilled to be able to show just how far Djenya had come. She handed Djenya a worn storybook, which he fingered delicately, slowly opened, and in a loud voice began to read to the volunteer.

It is through international collaboration and the tireless efforts of its dedicated staff that the ERC is able to meet the many needs of these children while continuing to inspire, educate, and promote self-actualization.

*The image above is artwork by an ERC student.

Betsy Closs is the director for Services for People with Disabilities at Jewish Family & Children’s Service. She has worked in the field of disabilities for more than twenty years, in both day and residential services as well as quality improvement. She was the director of the MA Governor’s Commission on Mental Retardation before joining the staff at JF&CS in 2002. Betsy has degrees from Vassar and Harvard in addition to her social work degree from Simmons. She has two young adult children, a son who is pursuing a master’s degree in education and a daughter who is a junior in college.