Creating a whiter Christmas for autism in Budapest
On a bright and surprisingly not-as-cold-as-I-was-expecting Hungarian December morning, the entire Realeyes team piled into a coach headed to Gyöngyös, home of the Autista Segítő Központ – the Autism Support Centre.
Unique in Hungary, Autista Segítő Központ combines residential care, a school, and a half-way house to smooth the kids’ transition into society once they reach 18. We chose to volunteer there specifically because autistic children often struggle to recognise and understand emotions, and there is the potential that someday, Realeyes technology may have helpful applications for them.
The centre is housed in a beautiful ex-Franciscan monastery, adapted to the needs of the school. For hygiene reasons, the walls need painting regularly – so, having donned large splatter-proof overalls, gloves and boots, we were given a crash course in interior decorating and let loose on the centre’s dormitory hallways.
After some initial hesitation, a rhythm started to emerge – working in tandem on the doors, one person would sand and the other would follow with a paintbrush, while alternating trios worked on the walls – one to paint the corners, one to do the edges, one to gleefully fill in the large blanks, eventually managing almost symbiotic coordination. There is something extremely satisfying about being able to really see your progress, as the old surfaces were slowly painted over.
Our painting might have lacked professional finish, but any help is appreciated.
We were given a tour, and saw first-hand the hard work and dedication put into supporting these children. Using a combination of specialist teaching, strict routine, art, music and physical therapy – along with the sort of care and equipment that is too expensive for families to afford by themselves – the centre teaches them the skills they’ll need to achieve a degree of self-sufficiency in life.
Our painting might have lacked professional finish, but as the centre is underfunded and relies on donations, any help is appreciated. For ourselves, it was a unique opportunity to work as a team on something completely different – and fun besides – as well as a chance to give something back to a community that needed it.
Find out more about Autista Segítő Központ