Alena Vebrová

General Information (April 2015)

High School: Střední průmyslová škola strojnická a Střední odborná škola profesora Švejcara, Plzeň 2010-2014

University or Technical School: Vyšší odborná škola zdravotnická Plzeň (2014-2017)

Special courses and workshops: First Aid course, Plzeň

Interests: FOD-AD MÁTA – volunteer with arts group, 2010-2014 FO D – summer camp leadership team - 2013, 2014

Work experience:

School practicum – personal assistant - 2012, 2013

School practicum – special education - 2014

Essay 2015

Since I was quite young, my life has revolved around children. Fourteen years have passed since the youngest of my brothers was born (and I don’t have just a few younger brothers!). At that time, I would walk my brothers in their baby carriages as often as possible. The arrival of each of my brothers made helping with children a daily routine for me.

I started being involved in local children’s activities when I was 10 years old. We lived in a small village, where children didn’t have much opportunity for recreation and entertainment, so I and some of my friends agreed to provide some activities for the kids. A minimum of three times a year, we prepared children’s activities, such as races, competitions, and games, ending with a campfire, where we roasted sausages over the fire. I was always in my element when I was with kids.

I dreamed that one day I would work as a preschool teacher, but that changed when one of my brothers was born mentally handicapped. I familiarized myself with new responsibilities – giving injections, learning various methods of exercising with him, and, later on, preparing gluten-free meals. Vašík (my brother) generally needed more attention and more frequent care than my other brothers. He is now seven years old, but his mental capacity has stayed around two years old. He is our angel in a human body. As a result of these experiences, my life goals changed.

There came a time when I had to choose which high school to go to – I selected the Střední odborné škole profesora Švejcara, with an emphasis in caregiving. During my first year, a social worker from MATA (a home for children at risk), which is part of FOD (Fund for At Risk Children, came to speak. Her lecture touched on volunteerism. I didn’t hesitate, even for a moment – volunteer work really struck me and I have been committed to it since that time.

This is my fifth year of volunteering once a week at MATA, where I lead a children’s art group. Along with creating art and handicrafts, we also work on developing communication skills. Last year, thanks to FOD, I was able to volunteer at a children’s summer camp. Approximately 70 children participated in this camp – children from foster care homes and families with social needs – all of whom FOD is trying to help. Most of the children, prior to their arrival at the home or placement in foster homes, were socially vulnerable and at risk, mostly due to their problematic environment, which resulted in problematic and underdeveloped social behavior. Many of the kids at the camp are hyperactive. Working with these children, preparing their programs, and providing daily care, can be difficult, at times. Some of the children’s stories about their families are so powerful that I know I will never forget them. Some evenings, when I was at the camp, I called my mother and cried over the phone because, by the end of an entire day, I was truly psychologically exhausted. My mom supported me and always gave me strength to face the following day.

For me, the greatest thing of all is seeing the fruit of my work – the growth of the children and their parents at the summer camp and also in the context of the weekly art group… In just a few days of being together, children who are unfamiliar with their new environment, learn not to interrupt and jump into others’ speech and how to respect one another.

For me, the greatest reward is seeing and experiencing the changes and fulfilled goals in the lives of the kids and their families. It motivates me for my future career and life, in general. Every experience is a reason to continue on… Something continually pulls me forward – I’m convinced that helping people is my mission in life. In the future, I would like to work with those who are socially weak or handicapped. More than anything, I would like to help families with mentally handicapped children. Due to my own personal experiences, I know very well that it isn’t easy to care for people like that day in and day out. My first step toward this goal has been to begin studying social work at a vocational school in Plzeň. After that, my dream is to study special education at university.