Character: Build It Here
Someday I’d like to meet Erzsébet Szeberes. I want to talk with her about how she was able to bring people together to solve the problem of housing for the disabled in her community. I want to tell her how much I am impressed by her story because it speaks to me about the courage that it takes to be a mother.
I read about Erzsébet in a book, How to Change the World, by David Bornstein. There’s a chapter entitled, “What Sort of Mother Are You?” Erzsébet changed the world for children with disabilities in Hungary. It all started one day while visiting her disabled son in an institution (at the time, there were no alternatives for housing the disabled in Hungary); a woman came up to Erzsébet and said, “What sort of mother are you? How can you leave your child in a place like this?”
Erzsébet was taken aback. She went home and couldn’t stop thinking about what the woman had said. She began to devise a plan to take care of her son at home. First she sought out other families with disabled children and began to build a community. Then she spent several summers abroad, visiting organizations that provide services for the disabled. Over the ensuing 3-4 years, she developed a model. A nearby kindergarten school with several buildings on campus came up for sale and Erzsébet was able to arrange financing. She transformed the facility into a place where disabled children could live, become educated, learn a trade, develop farming skills, and become contributing members of society.
Today, Erzsébet’s organization, The Rehabilitation Centre in Csömör, Hungary is a combination of two organizations: Alliance Rehabilitation for Public Goods and Foundation for Equal Rights. This national network in Hungary now has 22 locations in villages across the country and employs 570 disabled persons.
Erzsébet’s life changed the day that woman challenged her by saying, “What sort of mother are you?” For some mothers, that question could spark a reaction to defend their motherhood. For Erzsébet, however, it was a time to pause, put her ego aside, and let her humility provide a response that led to a solution.
You can find out more about Erzsébet’s organization here: http://www.osszefogas-eea.hu/oldalak/rolunkeng.html
You can read more about Erzsébet’s original story and appointment as an Ashoka Fellow here: https://www.ashoka.org/node/2882
You can find out about the book, How to Change the World, here: http://davidbornstein.wordpress.com/books/how-to-change-the-world/