Péter Orbán

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1995


This profile was prepared when Péter Orbán was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
Péter Orbán's dream is to mainstream Hungary's long isolated and marginalized disabled persons through creative interaction between them and non-disabled people. In the beautiful countryside near Budapest, he has opened a center named Fecskepalota, or the "Swallow's Palace," which is the first in Hungary to provide disabled people and their families with comprehensive services and recreation programs specially customized to meet their needs. The Swallow's Palace, which is privately funded, provides state institutions that care for the disabled with a chance to learn and experiment with new techniques, particularly valuable in a time when government funds for the disabled have been reduced.

One of the distinguishing qualities of Péter's project is how resourcefully he has adapted it to Hungary's economic realities, where empty buildings are plentiful and cash is hard to come by. The Swallow's Palace occupies one of the many abandoned buildings of the former communist regime, and Péter has developed a unique way to staff and finance it which maximizes its utility while keeping the price very low. Based upon the time-share principle, various hospitals and other health care organizations reserve the Swallow's Palace for blocks of time in exchange for staff services or labor and construction materials as well as money. This method of share selling is unique in Hungary. In addition to the financial benefits to this approach, the time-sharing method brings together people in the health care field who otherwise would not have the opportunity to interact and share ideas.

Near his center, Péter has begun to create a domestic animal park called "Handyland." When completed the park will be staffed by disabled children and will be a venue for positive interaction between them and non-disabled children. Moreover, Péter hopes that by providing these special children with meaningful tasks and responsibilities, they will become empowered and begin to fight for wider acceptance in mainstream Hungarian society.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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