This year, Christmas in Ruse’s social welfare centre was both traditional and highly novel. EQ designed and organised the event with a lot of help from the centre’s personnel.
On 19 December, guests made a magical journey through fields and forests, across continents and back through the centuries to the time of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. This was a Nativity play with a differencе in the manner in which it skillfully linked past with present, exploited the appeal to non-Christians and powerfully linked the idea of baby Jesus to the manner in which EQ collaborates with the staff at the complex in an attempt to create opportunity for all children.
The complex was full-to-bursting with children, many of them from local institutions, many disabled. They weren’t there simply to watch the enchanting events of the Nativity unfold although the performers – children and adults alike – put heart and soul into it. As EQ’s chairman, David Bisset, explained to the adults present, his organization looks for the special light in every child. He gave a graphic demonstration by teasingly creating a ‘percussion section’ among the children in the audience, appointing a conductor and dancers and leading a sing-along. In Bulgaria, disability generally means marginalization and forced encapsulation. Even in a crowd, a disabled individual is ‘apart’. David’s style of public interaction was designed as a gentle challenge to prevailing attitudes and practice. It worked. – wheelchairs and calipers magically dissolved as symbols of distinctiveness for the remainder of the afternoon. The kids were just kids.
Other speakers, who reinforced the message in their different ways, were Desi Encheva, the director of the complex and Dr. Iskra Geneva, deputy governor of Ruse region. In fact, David wishes he had invited Dr. Geneva to lead the backing singers. She does a mean shimmy.
The children ended their Christmas journey with treats and the adult guests with information material from EQ and the social welfare centre.