Creativity and Human Rights in
Therapy, Education and Play

27th – 28th of March 2003

Introduction and background

The first national conference with international participation entitled
“Creativity and Human Rights in Therapy, Education and Play” was held on 27/28 March 2003, In Bacau, at the County History Museum.

The conference was organized by FUNDATIA DE SPRIJIN COMUNITAR (FSC) The funders and collaborators were the EU Phare Access Programme, Relief Fund for Romania and Muzika Charitable Trust.

The mission statement of the conference was “ To improve the quality of life for institutionalised children and adults, their carers and families, to change mentalities and attitudes.”


FSC have a ten year history of delivering Arts Therapy for the Disabled to children and adults with special needs known as IMPART project.

Impart have delivered training programmes in institutions throughout Bacau and neighbouring counties. FSC and Relief Fund for Romania arranged the conference in response to their many concerns in this area:

- The neglect of the needs and human rights of people with disabilities in institutions and the community

- The isolation and lack of training of care workers

- The lack of suitable training opportunities

- The absence of accreditation for existing training initiatives

- The current reforms leading to institution closure and rapid displacement of long-term institutionalized residents into the community

- No plan for an integrated approach by NGO’s working in the field

- The accreditation of therapy in Romania as a profession

- The need to change mentalities and attitudes towards children and adults with special needs

- The lack of cooperation and collaboration, the need to share information and experience

The Participants

A total of 380 people registered from which were selected 250, representing 108 institutions and NGOs. The participants represented 53 Romanian NGOs, 41 state institutions and 14 foreign NGOs.

The large number of people that registered showed the increase interest of the audience in this field and the need for such information.

1. The Venue

The County History Museum is a large, modern building in the centre of Bacau. We very much regretted that the only available central venue that was large enough for our needs was on the third floor and difficult to access by people with disability. Simultaneous translation Romanian/English was available via the sound system.

2. Reception and registration

Those who arrived on the 26th (110) were welcomed by the organizers with a reception at the Hotel Moldova where accommodation was arranged. Each participant was given a conference folder, an IMPART manual and registered for the next day and was explained about the venue. The reception was also a social event where people had a chance to mix and find out about the different initiatives that are going on in this field.

3. Day 1 - 26th March 2003

233 participants were registered for the first day.

Opening and Introduction

Speakers on the first day

Gabriela Achihai President of FSC
Catalin Mardare Prefect of Bacau
Dr Sue Jennings Dramatherapist
Lenuta Nastac Coordinator of the IMPART programme
Mary Turner Artistic director from Action Space Mobile, UK
Doina Pocioianu Director of the Art Therapy Centre, Timisoara
Prof. Vlad Enachescu Bucharest University
Janet Sparkes Muzika Charitable Trust, UK
Emma Goldblatt Music as Therapy, UK
Simonetta Fanelli Gloria Network, Italy

The conference was opened by Gabi Achihai, President of FSC and the prefect of Bacau, Mr Catalin Mardare.

Gabriela Achihai referred to the mission of the conference and expected outcomes, she also introduced house keeping rules and continued to moderate the first half of the day.

Mr Mardare had experience some years ago of working with an NGO in an institution for adults with severe learning difficulties. He acknowledged the difficulties Romanian had had with such large numbers of children and adults locked away in institutions.

His opening address and remarks on the contribution of the non governmental organisations that support the state institutions, especially Community Support Foundation Bacau, the initiative and great results obtained in time with the beneficiaries – the disadvantaged persons, were therefore particularly appreciated.

The keynote speaker, Dr Sue Jennings is an author, teacher and drama therapist with many years experience of Romania especially with children with disabilities and adults with mental ill health. She has published over a dozen books on her specialty.

Dr Jennings spoke of the importance of creativity throughout life, starting with early play experiences.

Her speech focused on creativity in a child’s life, support of the parents of children with special needs and the various ways of networking in this field.

She then opened the series of panelists and interventions from the audience. She used many examples from Romania and abroad, referred to good models and practices and emphasized the importance of INCLUSIVITY as the route for Romania's people with special needs to aim to be accepted in a society based on reforms, changes and limited services.

Lenuta Nastac offered a vivid introduction on the general context, the history and the development of FSC’s Impart programme which delivers Arts Therapy for the Disabled in child and adult institutions in the NE of Romania.

Arts as Creative Activity and Arts as Therapy

This session introduced the idea that arts can be used to stimulate the creativity and development of people with special needs.

Mary Turner- Artistic Director of Action Space Mobile-a UK charitable organisation has over 10 years experience in working and training with Romanian institutions and organisations and over 30 years experience in working with special needs in UK. Her speech was about visual arts that can offer a way for communication, building of self confidence and esteem for people with special needs.

Doina Pocioianu, director of the Art Therapy Centre Timisoara presented a study on the effects of combined art therapy in the development of children with special needs. The study offered special measurement tools and statistics on groups of beneficiaries. She also presented a video on work performed in Timisoara centre.

Unfortunately professor Vlad Enachescu from Bucharest University did not attend and did not send a replacement to the conference which was a disappointment as the view of the university and teaching side would have been appreciated.

Debate on Special Needs Issues and Human Rights

Professor Rusu of Prohumanitas University and Printing House was unable to attend and sent Professor Stefan Baisan from Suceava who unfortunately was not able to introduce the debate on conceptual discriminations as planned.

Discussion groups

The participants were split into 5 discussion groups on themes like: the perception of disability, the status of the person with disabilities, institutionalisation, future plans and hope for the future for the person with disabilities, human rights and the rights of the children.

The results of the debates from each group were presented in plenary session. One conclusion was the need for a national forum, an umbrella for the organisations and institutions that work in the field.

People need information, new ideas, training opportunities and models that can be adapted to their own needs. The forum could be an independent body created by people for people working in this field, could forward the initiatives to the national authorities and “fight” for the rights of those in need in order to improve the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities.

Note: Facilitation of large discussion groups was a new learning experience for FSC. The sessions were somewhat compromised by large numbers and lack of time (not to mention some facilitators using the opportunity to deliver a lecture) but it was a good learning experience for many of us.

After the discussion groups Mrs.Julia Smyth, programmes Director of the Relief Fund for Romania, picked up the idea of creating a national forum and introduced the feedback questionnaires that were handed out to be returned on Day 2. Analysis of the questionnaires showed 95% interest from the participants for joining such a forum.

The press conference was held in the lunch break. Information about the conference appeared in the local newspaper and at the local television.

The second half of the first day continued with practical workshops Dr Sue Jennings and Vali Racila for drama, Tim Wright for music, Dan Foca for dance, Janet Sparkes for movement, Mary Turner for Art of music, art, drama, movement and dance sessions. The participants went to the workshop they choose in the registration form. The practical activities offered energy and ideas to everybody, being in the same time an opportunity to share their work experience.

The practical sessions were very much appreciated by the participants and the concrete results of the art session were displayed in the conference room.


Creativity in Therapy and Various Approaches in Art Programmes

This plenary session offered the opportunity of learning about various models: the Impart model of FSC, the Art Therapy Centre from Timisoara, Janet Sparkes and Kate Baxter made a presentation of Muzika Charitable Trust activity in Romania and also the representatives of Music as Therapy explained about the training on music therapy.

At their requests several participants had interventions on different approaches such as: the activity of the Oncologic institute of Bucharest, Melotherapy by Moshe Zamurovici and Mr.George Gojgar from the National Institute for prevention of social exclusion of people with handicap.

The conclusions of the session was the limited availability of training in this field Diversity offers ideas and good models. The great results of the combined art therapy in rehabilitation of people with special needs and in human rights aspects are obvious, spectacular and a starting point in extending the services throughout the country.

The day ended in friendly and warm atmosphere with a song from Kate Baxter etc -this was very welcome and demonstrated how important creativity is in a conference content – a good lesson for next time!

4. The Romanian traditional dinner

All the participants, over 200 persons, were invited to participate to a Romanian traditional meal, at the restaurant from the hotel Moldova. It was a social event where people had a chance to relax and exchange ideas about their work and discuss future collaboration.

The participants were entertained by: the artistic group of children “Zmeuris” (FSC beneficiaries), Michael Copley, Tim Wright, Vali Racila and the popular artist Mos Tache. The meal was free of charge.

5. Day 2 - 28 March 2003

230 persons were registered for the second day.

The day was opened by Lenuta Nastac welcoming the participants. The topics of the day related to the legislative context in Romania, training and accreditation in this field, other models, presentation of Impart manual, changing the institution culture and a final plenary session on creativity and human rights.


§ Sorin Brasoveanu, the General Director of the Department of Child Protection, Bacau; he referred to the local context, the need for training in this field and accreditation. The new legislation for child protection has been forwarded for approval by EU specialists and the process has not been finalised.

Mr.Brasoveanu highlighted the importance of collaboration and partnership between state institutions and NGOs in delivering services and training;

§ Rodica Padureanu, Director of the newly formed County Department for Social Protection (former inspector of the Inspectorate of People with Handicap) who highlighted the difficulties facing the authorities as they try to implement change in line with the EU standards for people with disabilities.

She explained about the recent changes in the system of protection for people with handicap and the action plan for the following 5 years in Romania, the creation of the National Agency for People with Handicap and the county offices for social protection.

§ Dorina Poinaru, director of the Society for Physical Handicapped Persons, Bacau made a presentation on the difficulties that people with handicap confront every day and how inaccessible public buildings and areas are.

§ Marioara Popa, director of Daniel Centre, Bacau spoke on support to families in the community, the need for extending the services for parents in rural areas, etc

§ Veronica Ungan, mother of a child with disabilities – mentioned her distress at no facilities for autistic children, she presented a very real and emotional story that lead to her joining an organisation that offers services for parents;

§ Val Regan, University Sheffield Hallam: gave a very interesting presentation on the Open College Network (OCN) model in UK. OCN assures the evaluation, certification and accreditation of organisations that deliver training in every field of expertise. She presented in detail a flexible, adaptable system that can answer specific training needs at any level.

§ Janet Sparkes, Muzika Charitable Trust, UK: presented the various training options and projects organised by MCT in Romania;

§ Una McInerey, Music as Therapy, UK: explained how interested groups of people can request a training session in music as therapy by UK specialists.

§ Madeleine Goodman, the Association for Creative Therapies, UK: had a long intervention on the needs of the parents with special needs children. She shared personal feelings and stories and explained about the difficulties she had to confront.

She is now enrolled with the British University -Faculty of Education and undertaken research in several European countries on profound and multiple disabilities. She mentioned the establishment of the East European Association of Creative Arts (ECARTE) in September 2002 organisation that will focus on accreditation of art therapy in university education.

Madeleine emphasized the need and right of parents to be involved in choices for their children and represented in organizations catering for special needs children.

§ Prof. Cristian Buica Belciu, Bucharest University: explained about the module on art therapy sustained at this university for 4th year students in special needs education.

He was very open and criticized the lack of resources and of practical approaches within this training. The public university system is not flexible and is quite rigid and conservative (comparing with OCN system).

He ended by saying “It’s like going to a restaurant and saying ‘What’s on the Menu’ to be told ‘Soup’…and only soup!”


The rest of the speakers presented their results obtained with various group of beneficiaries using creative arts methods.

§ Dr. Sue Jennings, dramatherapist, UK
§ Lenuta Nastac, coordinator of the Arts Therapy for the Disabled Programme, FSC
§ Ramona Craita, psychologist at the Recovering and Rehabilitation Center Gisteni, Bacau
§ Adriana Rosu, director of the Placement Center for the Child with Disabilities, Bacau
§ Mary Turner, Artistic director of Action Space Mobile

§ Vali Racila and three residents of Gisteni Hospital Dan Ripa, Adriana Ciorcu, Liliana Mirza: made a very impressive suggestive presentation of the achievements made in the institution where they live with strong and clear voices proving that quality services in institutions can change people's lives.

Dan Ripa: “Thank you for inviting me to this conference….I would like to tell you, what a good relationship I have with our director, he is like our father. He trusts me and offered me support when I wished to visit my parents for a couple of days. My parents are ill, old and their house is very small.”

Liliana and Adriana were bringing many thanks to the director that is their best friend, that can listen and understand their problems. Adriana described the bad situation of the institution before Dr. Necula came.

Now, we have many friends that come and visit us, bring us presents, talk to us, are working with us. That makes a big difference.” The audience was very sensitive to their story, listening to their warm message

With Ramona Craita's presentation on a case study of the development of Gisteni Hospital in the last 10 years from the perspectives of the staff, the residents and of Romanian and foreign NGOs who have worked in partnership with the hospital the message was that changes can be made with a good director who has the courage and the foresight to take advantage of every opportunity and the presence to carry his staff with him.

In the afternoon an important part of the programme was the Forum Theatre presented by the residents from The Recovering and Rehabilitation Center Gisteni. They proved the result of a ten years work with therapy and creative stimulation that institution being one of the few in the country that benefited of a continuous collaboration with Romanian and foreign NGOs.

The Forum Theatre presented Lenuta’s life how she ended up into this institution. The actors (9 residents) were playing Lenuta’s life – how she was left by her husband that didn’t get along with her, how her family or the authorities didn’t offer any support, finally getting to CRRN Gisteni. The audience was also involved in the play, someone entered into Lenuta’s role changing her destiny, leaving the past life behind and going away into the world.

The message transmitted by the theatre play was that our society doesn’t offer solutions when people are in need. Bureaucracy, the lack of access to the social services, sends people in the wrong places. The actors themselves were negative and bureaucratic when playing the roles of those with power of decision, knowing exactly how the authorities respond to the requests of those in need.

The conference ended by Mrs. Gabriela Achihai presenting the conclusions and the results of the event. Kate Baxter, the director of Muzika Charitable Trust involved the audience in a song accompanied with musical instruments creating a special atmosphere when people sang “La revedere” to each other.

Questionnaires regarding the conference were distributed to all the participants and collected at the end of the day. (See the Appendix 1- Analysis of the questionnaires).

6. Exhibition viewing

FSC organised an exhibition with artwork of children and adults from institutions, NGOs from different parts of the country. The participants had the opportunity to view the exhibition in the break time and take new ideas that they may use in the art programmes (art, modeling, painting, collage) with the beneficiaries.
Presentation materials from NGOs and institutions were also on show (leaflets, newsletters, books, etc.), a new chance for the participants to get in contact with similar initiatives in the country and abroad.

7. Presentation equipment

Some of the speakers used the video projector, power point presentation, video, flipchart. A video presentation of FSC and the IMPART programme was playing downstairs in the museum, the participants watching it in the lunch break.



8. Conclusions and results of the conference

· Participants have more ideas, contacts and information about: Arts Therapy for the Disabled for special needs groups; measured by the number of speakers, topics, workshops, feed-backs.

· The participants showed interest in joining a national forum. This will be taken forward by The Relief Fund for Romania and participants will be informed what is happening.

· The conference explored the training opportunities, not many at present; some groups may apply for existing training courses: Music as Therapy, Muzika Charitable Trust, FSC-Impart

· More training opportunities for those working with special needs groups are needed outside the formal degree route (psychology, teaching, etc.); expressed at workshops

· The training needs to be sensitive to the previous educational experience and realistic to own aspirations, and accredited by the authorities in the field of education. To this effect FSC will discuss and negotiate for national interest in Open College Network model in Romania

· FSC will start the process of accreditation with OCN to demonstrate the high standard of FSC training, the fact that there are measurable outcomes and alternative ways of demonstrating quality

· Future conferences need more creative content

· Workshops need to be more numerous and smaller numbers

· Future conferences and the forum will encourage representation from people with disabilities.

· Disability access must be assured



The analysis of the questionnaires led us to the following conclusions:

§ A low number of questionnaires was registered comparing with the number of the participants
§ The organization of the event was considered as very good
§ The participants showed a high interest for the therapeutic activities
§ Accreditation represent for most of the participants a wish but the steps that need to be followed in the process are totally unknown

§ Most of the practitioners need continuous training in various fields
§ The idea of a national forum has many adherents
§ Most of the participants wish that this conference become a tradition

Some feedback from our Romanian colleagues sponsored by Music as Therapy:

" The conference was divided between debates and practical work-shops. Alongside the very important and useful discussions, we were pleasantly impressed by the good collaboration seen between NGOs and local authorities. It is the local authorities which can enable to NGOs to become more powerful.

We would have liked more time to have been allowed for the workshops and if it had been possible for us to participate in every workshop (as was possible at the International Music Therapy Conference in Calimanesti- Caciulata, Sept. 2001).

The subjects covered in the workshops were very interesting and we have now a lot of new ideas which will help us in our activities (art-therapy, dance, drama). We were also really pleased to receive a copy of the very useful book about combined arts.

At the end of the conference, we decided to make a National Forum, which would be very useful for our work in the future (a place to exchange ideas, find solutions, exchange experience etc)."

“The Conference in Bacau was well organised, from the point of view of where it was held, the subjects covered were very interesting and all the presentations were very relevant.

I had the opportunity to talk with other participants about their work, their opinions and their methods.

In terms of learning, I can say that I was able to consolidate what I had learnt in a year and a half ago with my initial Music as Therapy training project...

I am aware of the importance of collaboration between the organisations and all the different programmes in this field.

I talked with several colleagues from other cities, I exchanged ideas with them and shared opinions.

A large part of the conference focused on presenting the model used by the IMPART team of the Fundation for Community Support.

Pedagogs, psychologists, parents of children in Romania all took part in the conference, as well as lots of professionals from England. From them I learnt a lot. They are our models.

In conclusion, the conference was interesting. For me it was a great pleasure to take part in the conference."

Feedback from UK participants, Music as Therapy representatives:


· Considering first of its kind, we felt there were few weaknesses

· Definitions were not dealt with and there were some generalisations of "therapies" which would need to be dealt with should the "forum" be established.

· The conference lost its focus slightly - especially on the second day - maybe the issue of training/accreditation seems too big a leap at the moment - particularly at a national level?

· A general comment was lack of attendance by people with disabilities

Things that were well done:

· General organisation

· Time-keeping

· Administration

· Chairing

· Translations (generally)

· Questionnaire re future forum - well received and gave delegates a vision to hold on to and a sense of solidarity and support - also gave the conference a focus

· Some opportunities for open-floor discussion - although fear of anecdotal/personal/diverting from the point.

Note: Since the conference the formation of a National Network to take this initiative forward was progressed with the succesful launch of the magazine, Impreuna

Issue 2 April 04

Gabriela Achihai

The second conference - kindly sponsored by the British Embassy of Romania - was held in November 2004 Click here for a report on the



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