Eva Mydílková has developed jobs that abate the chronic long-term unemployment of Slovakia's disabled young people and provide alternatives to the deteriorating safety net for the society's disadvantaged people.
The New Idea
Eva Mydílková has designed a scheme that seeks to make the best of severe budget reductions for social care services in Slovakia. Across-the-board cuts for public services were eliminating subsidized jobs for the disabled. At the same time they were causing nursing homes, hospitals and other care givers to close or contract out their services. Eva saw a labor niche for a population that has great difficulty competing in Slovakia's job market: she trains and re-deploys disabled persons as employees in the beleaguered social care sector. Eva's plan is good for all the participants. In order to finance the new jobs, Eva builds consortia of private businesses, local churches and other community groups-all of which are willing to contribute toward the salaries of the trained and enthusiastic disabled workers because they help to maintain the functions of local nursing homes, hospitals and other social service institutions in spite of lean public budgets. Eva's technique is rewarding for the clients, who develop better self-esteem through work and have a sense of contributing to the greater good of society. She realizes that it is extremely important that these marginalized people feel useful and needed and that the general public see their potential to contribute to the community.
It is true that there are many success stories and many people have experienced an increased standard of living as a result of the recent economic and social transformations in Central Europe. But there are many others who have been adversely affected by the sea-change to a market economy. Unemployment is one of the most serious consequences, and although the rates differ between countries, long-term unemployment is growing throughout the region. It is highest in Slovakia, where 54 percent of all unemployment is long-term. Unemployment for people under 25 is twice as high as the rest of the population, and disabled people from age 18 to 25 form one of the most disadvantaged groups in the entire labor force. Unemployment among the disabled was ten times higher in 1993 than it was in 1990, due to budget cutbacks which have eliminated their main source of work: jobs subsidized by the government. Consequently, this group of young people become increasingly marginalized and utterly dependent on others.
Eva is the founder and director of the Tyr Center, which she established in Orava, an economically depressed and rural district in northern Slovakia. Through the Center she provides comprehensive services to young disabled people who are chronically unemployed. She finds them by searching in the local unemployment registers. She also attempts to find those who have withdrawn their names from the registers out of shame or despair at being unemployed. Once a potential client is identified, Eva develops an individual program that provides the best possible job opportunities.
The Center offers its clients physical rehabilitation, psychological and job counseling, and training in basic work place skills. In addition to training them, the Center creates jobs for Tyr's clients on the condition that they must work in those social services that are missing from the community. Eva obtains money to fund these jobs from private businesses and a range of community groups, including churches-particularly the Catholic Church, which maintained a commitment to private social services throughout the years of communism. The Center's advisory board, consisting of representatives from all of Eva's partner organizations, mobilizes all segments of the community to realize opportunities for the client. So far they have been able to establish laundry, confectionery, tailor and artisan workshops, where the disabled workers sell their products at market value to the larger community. Jobs have also been created in transportation services, a physical rehabilitation center, nursing homes and hospitals.
The Tyr Center is well known throughout the district, and it is frequently approached by those who are not disabled but simply unemployed. Consequently government officials and national charities have visited the Center to study Eva's program as a model for them to use in the development of similar programs. In addition, she works with universities, schools for social work, associations of disabled people, and other nongovernmental organizations to develop internships and collaborations. She offers assistance to governmental officials in their efforts to implement her projects and spreads her perspective to the public through the mass media.
As a psychological counselor in Orava, Eva treated people whose mental health had been adversely impacted by long-term unemployment. This condition resulted from the inability of existing programs to address the needs of the disadvantaged unemployed.
For ten years, Eva worked as a workplace psychologist at a large electronics factory. There, she implemented several innovative techniques for industrial psychology, which helped the factory build a more congenial atmosphere and promote better mental well being. After she completed her post-graduate course in psychological counseling, Eva built a counseling center in the district capital.
Eva conceived the Tyr Center as a thesis project during her postgraduate study. In 1993, after her graduation, Eva decided to make it a reality. Since then, she has been the voluntary director of the Center.