Brunilda, the journey to independence

Brunilda and Klara
Monday, January 29, 2024

Brunilda is truly remarkable. Despite her shyness, her eyes radiate kindness and affection for those around her. The 13-year-old resides in a village on the outskirts of Prrenjas, alongside her parents, grandmother, brother, and two sisters.

In a world where self-interest often prevails, Brunilda's message is one of love and care for one another. She holds deep affection for everyone, and in return, she is adored by all. Although she struggles to articulate her feelings verbally, she expresses her love primarily through gestures, particularly with hugs. Brunilda has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

"Until she reached the age of one, everything appeared to be progressing normally. At one year old, she uttered 'mom' and 'dad,' but that was the extent of her verbal communication. We were taken aback, unsure of the underlying issue. After consulting with doctors, they diagnosed the girl with autism spectrum disorder," recounts Mimoza, the mother of the young girl, whom we encounter alongside Brunilda at the Community Center for Disability Services in Prrenjas, a project funded by the European Union.

Brunilda is currently in fifth grade. While she lives in a village on the outskirts of the city, she travels to Prrenjas every week with her mother for speech and developmental therapy, a routine she's maintained for over a year. The Community Center for Disability Services holds a special place in her heart, and she considers the specialists there as her closest companions.

"This center provides her peace. It's like a second home to her. When we can't make it to the center, they provide services at our doorstep. This has been incredibly beneficial, saving us both time and money," adds her mother.

Through these therapy sessions, Brunilda has sharpened her focus, enhanced her social skills, and become more cooperative, all while refining her communication abilities.

"Previously, she struggled to maintain focus, and everything felt daunting to me. However, since beginning therapy, Bruna's life has undergone a remarkable transformation. She shares a wonderful rapport with the specialists, who have become her friends," shares Mimoza. She also reveals that she often encounters prejudiced attitudes regarding her daughter's condition.

"In the past, I used to feel overwhelmed, often in tears, and burdened by a sense of responsibility. I internalised a lot of blame. But now, I've come to accept reality. My sole focus is on Bruna and her development. I've learned to disregard others' hurtful words," Mimoza continues.

Brunilda has been enrolled in the "Tungjatjeta Jetë" programme for three years, a World Vision Albania initiative that introduced specialised home services for children with disabilities in rural areas lacking access to such support.

Brunilda shares a unique bond with Klara. Their connection resembles that of friends, often marked by warm embraces. According to the speech therapist, the project also involves training parents on how to engage with their children at home.

"Bruna is showing great cooperation. Her concentration and eye contact have improved, and she adeptly performs the exercises while correctly identifying figures and colors. I witness progress week by week," Klara shares.

The upcoming session will take place at Brunilda's home. As they depart, the 13-year-old's mother shares her primary concern.

"My greatest wish is for Bruna to achieve independence in life and consistently receive the necessary services," Mimoza concludes, expressing hope that with the guidance of specialists, Brunilda will thrive.

Thanks to the Community Center for Disability Services project, 64 children and youth with disabilities in Prrenjas, spanning both urban and rural areas, receive integrated services tailored to their needs. This project, funded by the European Union and executed by World Vision Albania in collaboration with the Prrenjas municipality, provides speech therapy, physiotherapy, and developmental therapy across three avenues: at home, within the community center, and at school.

Overall, 180 children and youth with disabilities benefit from this initiative.

By Alfons Cupaj, PR and Communications Officer, World Vision Albania