JDC Field Blog

Groundbreaking Agreement on Center for Disabled in Serbia

Last week, as the European Union (EU) ratified the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities—the first time in history the EU has become a party to an international human rights treaty—JDC celebrated its own small victory promoting these rights in neighboring Serbia.

KEC MNRO, the first creative educational center for people with intellectual disabilities, will be opened in Belgrade by the end of the year.

KEC MNRO, the Creative Educational Center for the Developmentally Disabled, is a non-governmental organization founded 10 years ago with seed money from JDC and donor Dr. Alfred Bader to give people with intellectual impairments the opportunity to work in the open labor market rather than be hidden away in their houses or institutions. This pioneering therapeutic activity and job development program was spearheaded by a former prima ballerina, Greta Kecman, and former JSC volunteer, now rebbetsin Rachel Chanin Asiel.

Along with JDC, the Jewish community of Belgrade became very active in this project, employing several people with disabilities as staff in the Kosher kitchen, which serves the city’s Holocaust survivors. And special computer literacy courses organized in the Jewish community’s computer lab garnered great interest and attendance by people with disabilities.

At a formal press conference last week, the US Ambassador to Serbia, Mary Warlick; the Deputy Mayor of Belgrade, Milan Krkobabic; and President of the Center, Greta Kecman, signed a contract giving KEC MNRO 20-year use of a 279-square-meter facility being issued by the city and renovated by the US government.

“Here [at KEC MNRO] our young friends will prepare and train to compete for jobs from the same starting point and with that gain a strong basis for independent life,” said Mayor Krkobabic, expressing his enthusiasm for what the new center’s various creative and educational workshops will do to enhance the day-to-day experience of people with intellectual disabilities.

Emphasizing the importance of KEC MNRO, US Ambassador Warlick noted that the organization “doesn’t only offer the services of a day center to children but also collaborates with numerous businesses to enable employment for these people and with that achieves conditions for a better life.”

We’re proud to be a part of this benchmark week in advancing the rights of people with disabilities.