7 June 2023

Working with the handicapped people brought Pavel Mikuláček a new perspective

Being a partner for those with whom I experience the camp | Autor: archives of P. Mikuláček

“I had some idea of what I wanted to do... and then suddenly a hundred and eighty degree turn.” That's how mathematical engineering student Pavel Mikuláček describes a summer camp with people with physical and mental disabilities, where he helped as an assistant. Five years have passed since then and Pavel is still helping in the STONOšKA Club till today. The society, which is now seeking funding for new premises, can also support the public by contributing to a collection on the portal Donio. 

Journey of Pavel Mikuláček to volunteering began in a rather untypical place: a bar. “It was a long vacation after graduation, before starting college. I met two girls at a club in Přerov, we talked and the next morning I got a message asking me if I wanted to go to camp with them,” Pavel, now a fifth-year student of Mathematical Engineering, recalls.

The STONOšKA club helps people with disabilities to spend their free time | Autor: archives of P. Mikuláček
He said he thought a lot about the offer. Not only because he himself is quite an introvert and just going out among strangers would be a big step out of his comfort zone. The camp was organized by the STONOšKA Club and the event was intended for young adults with disabilities. “To be honest, I've always tended to avoid people with disabilities. I didn't know any of them, and when I saw a person in a wheelchair on the street, I preferred to walk around him, just so there wouldn't have to be any interaction,” Pavel admits.

According to him, many people suffer from similar feelings and he understands them. The cause is usually the fear that one will not know how to deal with the handicapped person properly. “In retrospect, I would recommend not to be afraid of it. A handicapped person is the same person as everyone else, they experience the same emotions,” says Pavel, who decided five years ago to take a step into the unknown. And he says it changed his life.


Pavel goes on trips and camps with the STONOšKA Club | Autor: archives of P. Mikuláček
“I like to say that I am the prototype of the person who is least suited to assisting. First of all, I'm studying mathematics, which isn't exactly close. And I'm a big introvert. I've never been to a camp, I've never met a person in a wheelchair, everything was the first time for me,” he recalls of the event, which he says he remembers literally every second of and was emotionally and psychologically demanding for him. “I knew that once the camp was over I would start thinking about everything a lot, which is what happened,” he adds.

The week-long event passed quickly and Pavel said he didn't even want to go home. He knew he had just experienced something that would change him fundamentally. “It was a process of self-discovery. The realization that what I thought were insurmountable problems in my life are actually terrible little things compared to what others are experiencing. That I have everything I need in life. I had some idea of what I wanted to do in life and where I wanted to go, and then suddenly I turned around a hundred and eighty degrees. I would say I'm a really different person,” he says.

He has been going to events and annual camps with STONOšKA ever since. He does everything for free and in his spare time, just like the other volunteers in the club. “The reward is a good feeling, experiences and time spent with great people. It's all very honest in there. It takes very little and you can see the immense gratitude. And I do it for myself too, it fulfils me,” he says.

Up the stairs!

The STONOšKA Club is one of many clubs of the Association of Parents and Friends of Disabled Children in the Czech Republic. It helps children and young adults with disabilities to spend their free time, either in a day centre or through camps and other events. This also relieves their families, for whom caring for a person with a disability is a never-ending commitment. The club is located in Bystřice pod Hostýnem in rented premises, which are no longer suitable after many years. “We are running out of space. In addition, they are not wheelchair accessible, so we have to carry wheelchairs to the first floor or use a stairlift, which is tedious. In the future, we would also like to establish sheltered housing,” Pavel explains.

“I'm really a different person,” says Pavel | Autor: archives of P. Mikuláček
To this end, the club is now launching a public collection for the purchase of new screens, which can be donated via the Donio portal. Many of the volunteer assistants at the club are siblings of disabled children. “These people had no choice either. They could not choose whether they would be born into a healthy family or have siblings with disabilities. Even so, it is a responsibility for them; if something happens to their parents, they are automatically expected to take care of their sibling. Sheltered housing can therefore be a great relief for them, because they will know that their brother or sister is well cared for and that they are living in an environment where they are used to and comfortable,” Pavel explains.

Pavel Mikuláček will soon face his state exams. He says he is not afraid of them. “I can't wait to graduate and go to camp. You don't really solve anything on stays, there's nothing to. You're with these people, without a phone, you completely shut down. I'm going to put the numbers out of my head and just focus on being a partner to those I'm experiencing the camp with as an assistant,” Pavel is looking forward to it. And if something goes wrong with the state exams? “I'm not going to be upset about it. I don't even get nervous, my classmates could probably confirm that I am absolutely calm before any exam. I have learned patience and how to cope with stress,” concludes Pavel Mikuláček, who would like to continue his studies in mathematics at doctoral level.



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