Naša kuća Our House
“Naša Kuća” (Our House) is an association founded in 2007 by parents of young adults with intellectual disabilities. Mission of the Association for support of persons with developmental disabilities “Nasa Kuća” is improvement of quality of life through development of social services in a local community. Special emphasis is on employment of persons with developmental disabilities, because their employment is the most important step towards social inclusion, poverty reduction and betterment of quality of life.
The first to be developed were the Day centre services and then the social enterprise was founded motivated by the insight into the limitations of the day centre and with an intention to do more for the beneficiaries. Our Day center is daily visited by fifteen 20+ young persons with disabilities. They work on development of social skills through widening network of friends and acquaintances. Users of the center belong to the group of persons who are unemployable considering that they were excluded from the education system, resulting in a lack of knowledge and skills and consequently, the inability to find themselves at the open labor market. Moreover, most users have been deprived of their legal capacity, which only adds to the impossibility of finding a job. All current business activities of the association are linked with their employment, while the association plans to continue employing persons with intellectual difficulties and enable employment in an open setting and at different tasks. Also, what is most important for us, there is a plan to establish a sustainable housing service with support, in the form of a housing cooperative or an endowment.
Work with our beneficiaries (12 guys and 3 girls) is individualized and adjusted to each person according to particular/individual plan of support. The most of team working with the young persons has years of experience in this field and in their work special emphasis is given on social education. Considering the real problems with employment, we decided to direct our activities towards employment and work integration through social entrepreneurship. In our Statute and according to the qualifications of Serbian Agency for Business Registers we have predicted as our core activity production of paper and paper board products, and provision of services. By providing the funds for adaptation of space, purchase of machine and intermediates, in 2010 we started production of paper bags and in 2012 expanded our production with cardboard boxes and packaging. Our beneficiaries are actively involved in the production and packaging process, which really contributes to their social and work integration. Every possible earnings from the sale of the paper bags and cardboard products are directed towards improvement of the conditions in our Day care centre for persons with developmental disabilities. For young men at the center this was the first real, paid job. Each of the users has been trained with the help of support team, for one segment of paper bag production and the engagement on other segments has been gradually increased. Receiving money as pay for completed work has been extremely important and simulative factor for users.
Also, within the frame of our services, in early 2012 we began a service on a local level called “Kitchen of wheals”, which has been realizes with a commercial catering company “Top Rest Catering” and the local self-government. The service is food delivery to home address to people who are ill, with physical difficulties, to old single people and so on. The meals are sold at economically acceptable prices. All possible inclusion of our beneficiaries in this process (packaging or delivering the food) is an essential part of this “business venture”.
In 2014 Municipality of Zvezdara(Belgrade) gives us a space for the kitchen, which we reconstructed and equipped. Reconstructed kitchen enabled us to expand our service. Thanks to the larger number of sold meals we have developed the practice of giving free meals to the most vulnerable, to those who are in need, but not in the social protection system. This service is significant from several aspects: it raises the quality of life for elderly persons and their families and provides new experiences and new work placements for young people with intellectual disabilities.
In 2017 we opened the Center for Hydroponic-Vegetable Vegetation in the free indoor space that is part of the entire kitchen on wheels. Hydroponics is special vegetable cultivation skill that the Japanese and Dutch have perfected especially when it comes to planting indoor plants (city gardens). Our house has long-standing cooperation with the Japanese organization for international cooperation JICA, thanks to which we came to the idea for hydroponic vegetable production. With the help of Serbian Ana &Vlade Divac Fund, we acquired equipment and technology for hydroponic cultivation.This technology provides the ideal conditions for the growth of vegetables that have excellent quality throughout the year. Hydroponic vegetable production requires relatively high investment in the beginning but later is considerably cheaper than the traditional cultivation of vegetables. Nutritional value of vegetables are many times higher than in the vegetable growing in soil, the growth is much faster, with maximum savings of water and energy and it is ecologically completely acceptable, with multiple higher yield. Digitized technology enables accurate monitoring and control of all parameters required for optimum plant growth. This innovative technology also allows the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the process of production of vegetables. This method of production enables us develop a line of healthy meals and to promote new technology, responsible attitude towards natural resources and the environment and on people with disabilities in the world of work within its service Kitchen on wheels. This technology makes it possible to engage people with disabilities in the production process ensuring the economic existence and inclusion in the community. In addition to social security, this technology provides the possibility for people with disabilities to take the roles in promotion of healthy lifestyles and sustainable development.
We believe that this concept of healthy vegetables growing hydroponic technology and development of our delivery service of healthy meals for the elderly, with the engagement of people with disabilities in vegetable production, food preparation and delivery is applicable in other regions of Serbia, neighboring countries and even beyond. This new technology, in a situation of limited natural resources, is certainly a technology of the future.
One of our goals is to expand the capacity of our kitchen in order to increase the scope of our production and to improve our offer with new products. We expect increased demand for our products and therefore there is a need to improve the efficiency of our kitchen and to hire more people. Our plans include improving hydroponic production – by increasing the area of cultivation, securing and installing solar panels to save electricity. In addition, we intend to make our production varied. We plan to enrich our production with tomatoes and strawberries, because now we only grow salad and spice herbs. We plan to sell fresh fruits, vegetables and salads, but also to process them in various sauces.
One of our strategic goals is to start the practice of housing with support for our beneficiaries and other people with disabilities. Currently, we have initiated the process of establishing a foundation to be funded from the profit from our economic activities. In addition, the foundation would be financed by donations, fundraising and through projects. Also, the foundation should include the donated property of parents and other interested parties who wants to contribute, in order to ensure that all users have equal conditions for care in the future. We plan to pilot the service by providing one apartment and organizing a home for a small group of our beneficiaries thus creating a service, gaining experience and learning what is needed in order for our beneficiaries to function normally. In terms of our last stated goal, we need help with piloting a supported housing project.
Membership in networks and associations:
“Naša Kuća” is a member of Social Economy Network Serbia (SENS). SENS is the only national network that brings together social enterprises. SENS was founded in 2011 by Group 484 with the support of the Italian UniCredit Foundation, which has a long tradition of funding and supporting the social entrepreneurship sector throughout Southeast Europe. SENS currently has 26 members from all over Serbia, including citizens associations, enterprises for vocational rehabilitation of persons with disabilities, limited liability companies and cooperatives.
During our work, many donors helped our organization: Balkan community Initiative fund BCIF, CRS, SDC, SCAN foundation, UniCredit foundation, GIZ. One part of financial resources was secured through EU projects in partnerships with BCIF and MDRI-S, USAID through Trag foundation and ISC, Royal Norwegian Embassy, Hypo AlpeAdria Bank, Coca-Cola, WagenInt, Telenor, UNDP, JICA, Delico Manufacture, Puratos, VanDrunen Farms Europe etc. “Naša kuća” invests efforts in its financial sustainability through production of paper bags, cardboard boxes and eco packaging, and preparing meals and catering, cooperation with socially responsible companies. Approximately ¼ of the income is used only forsocial purposes.
Association supporting persons with developmental disabilities “Naša kuća” (“Our house”)
Kragujevacka 9a, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia
+381641699069, +381652888084, +381652888084
President of the association is Mrs Anica Spasov