The Rácz siblings have been volunteering at the Immanuel Home, a ministry to people with disabilities, in Debrecen since they can remember. For the children, their peers at the home are just that – peers. The Rácz siblings help the kids in the home with games, learning activities, and even events at summer camp. Kindness and a sense of open curiosity come naturally to them.
Creating learning and developmental opportunities for people with disabilities is the most important aim for the workers of the Immanuel Home in Debrecen. They get a very special help in this every afternoon when 9-year-old Réka Rácz and 13-year-old Miklós Rácz visit the home and they play together with the students.
When we arrived to the Immanuel Home, a wheelchair activity was going on. In this activity, with the developer teachers’ help, the disabled children learn how to confidently use their wheelchair through different games. The Rácz siblings helped the participants with instructions or different games. We could tell that they had visited the home a lot.
The Immanuel Home of the Great Church COngregation in Debrecen is a social institution that provides public education and health care services. Currently the institution take cares of 80 disabled people from Hajdú-Bihar County. The workers try to create a varied atmosphere for the disabled children through different therapies. Their most important aim is to prepare students for life in the “real world.”
The afternoons are always fun. After I played and practiced together with the children I had time to speak with the Rácz siblings. It turned out that they have been visiting the kids there since their mother started to work in the Immanuel Home.
When we started to speak they told me what kind of activities they took part in and liked to do. "There is a wheelchair class in the afternoons, dog therapy, wheelchair dancing, swimming, and bible class," said Miklós. He added that he takes part at everything except the swimming. "The dog therapy is the best and the kids also love it very much,” said Réka. They told me the bible class was interesting as well because they sang together and got to know the stories of the Bible through different games. “We help them to recognize the song”, said Miklós, and Réka added that, “We always pray and learn something new, and sometimes we go to the church.” It’s really normal to the Rácz sibling to be with their disabled friends every afternoon. They don’t feel this situation is special or specific, but they know that a lot of people think differently.
Miklós and Réka see all of this as a game. They have good friends from the home and they play together with them. They are really proud of the play, ”Pötyi and Pille,” that both of them acted in. “The story is about friendship. I play Pille, the chubby caterpillar, and one of my friends plays Pötyi, the ladybug,” explained Réka. “We have done it many times, and we like it, and so do the viewers.”
“Sometimes a lot of people come to see our play. The kids get nervous before the play so I try to calm them down. I play the squirrel, and the story is about the evolution of the caterpillar,” said Miklós. The next performance is going to be on International Children’s Day.
The "Pötyi and Pille" play is produced by the Immanuel Home, the Ferenc Kölcsey Reformed Primary School, and the students of Pál Kinizsi Primary School. The play is about themes of true friendship, acceptance, and unconditional love. It shows that there are no obstacles between people that cannot be overcome. The performance was a project created for the 25th anniversary of the institution.
When the Rácz siblings have a school break they don’t stay at home – instead they go to the Immanuel Home with their mother. Miklós spoke about the summer program a little bit, telling us that, “Last summer we did different things for a week. For example, there was the sightseeing week, the dog week, and the camp week when we went to Berekfürdő. I hope we go this year as well!” It was great to hear how responsible he was while he was speaking. The Rácz siblings know they need to be careful while they are playing with their disabled friends, but they don’t think this is troublesome. They are happy to help people.
While we were speaking with the Rácz siblings, their mother looked inside, so we had chance to speak with her as well. “I’m happy because they loved being here since the first time. For me it is a little bit surprising, because most ‘healthy’ children don’t have the chance to meet disabled people, and when they finally meet one, they are afraid of them. At least this is my experience. That’s why I’m so grateful to my children,” said the mother.
After the interview, Réka and Miklós returned to the kids to play with them. They treated the disabled children as a little sister/brother and they were really gentle and patient. It was good to see how naturally this kindness comes from the Rácz siblings.
The assembly of the Transcibiscan Reformed Church District discussed and submitted a document "on the welcoming of people with disabilities into our church communities" to the Synod of the RCH in 2016 in order to witness to the integration of people with disabilities and its theological importance for the church. The RCH Synod approved the statement on Accessible Church, which can be read here.
Written by Zsuzsanna Farkas
Translated by Viktória Fülöp