Social enterprise “Dzīves oāze”

June 13, 2024

“Dzīves oāze” (Oasis of Life), Riga

Group flat for people with mental disabilities, day care centre for people with dementia, family assistant services, father support groups.

Biešu iela 6, Rīga, LV-1004

+371 27788148

The social enterprise “Dzīves oāze” offers a wide range of services to help seniors with dementia, people with mental disabilities, as well as families and especially fathers. For several years now, it has been run by Jānis Broks, who joined the care centre, which was on the verge of bankruptcy, in 2019. Since then, work has been completely reorganised and restructured, staff has been carefully selected, and attitudes towards clients have changed.

Intensive work is currently being done to develop the family assistant service and support groups for fathers. “I am particularly interested in this. I have developed and run a programme for another organisation before, and this is the second year we have been setting these groups,” says Jānis, proud of his work.

The support groups for fathers are organised in a series of eight sessions, which aim to educate and equip fathers with new skills, as well as to support them with practical tasks, encouraging them to believe in themselves. For some, the group provides support during divorce, helping them to learn how to organise their time, how to cooperate with the child’s mother and how to maintain the relationship with the child. Within the group, fathers learn to share and talk about different difficulties and solutions. “They open up and when there is a break between the sessions, they start discussing not only fishing and cars, but also children and issues they can solve. The programme is very simple on the one hand, but on the other hand it is built in such a way that the fathers discover their own resource, share their knowledge with each other,” says Jānis.

But the longest running of the centre’s two activities is a day centre for adults with dementia and a group flat for people with mental disabilities.

Day centre clients receive developmental and recreational activities, care during the day and they can return home in the evening. Clients who are attending the day centre have different levels of dementia, and for some it is their only chance to socialise. “On the other hand, it is also an opportunity for family members to stay socially active, as their loved ones are looked after, cared for and receive support that help them to remain functional,” says the company’s CEO. Currently, the centre can accommodate 20-25 people per day.

A group apartment is for people who have the capacity to take care of themselves but have difficulty living on their own because of mental disabilities. “Our job is to keep them active and social, not to let them get lazy,” explains Jānis Broks. They need help with things like budgeting, reminders, support and encouragement. Currently, 16 people live in the group flat, all of whom receive a pension, but many are also able to work. “A group flat is like one step. There are people who will always stay in a group flat, but there are many who are just initially either afraid or discouraged, or lacking the skills to be independent – we can help them get back on their feet. One of the most important things is that they find a job, that they stick to it and that it is a supportive environment. So, we look for employers who are open and willing to accept that this is a person with a disability,” says Jānis. So far, however, there are not many such opportunities on the Latvian labour market.

As for the day-to-day management of the centre, each service has its own team dedicated to one area, currently 15 people are employed.

The first year after joining the company was very hard and intense, but almost immediately the centre became a social enterprise. This seemed natural, as Jānis had previously been interested in this type of business. “It was on my radar and very much in line with how I see and do it. Initially, I didn’t even think about applying for grants and funding, it was more of an ideological, philosophical direction,” says Jānis Broks.

Social care has also been close to his heart for a long time. A psychologist by training, he also worked in schools, but when he found himself in a crisis centre, he immediately felt at home. “And at some point, I realised that I could work not just with one person at a time, but with a team. That’s when I started to think of myself as a manager,” says Jānis.

As for the future, he stresses that social services are always underfunded, and their providers are closely linked to local authorities. But “Dzīves oāze” aims to become more independent in this respect. “We want to develop the service ourselves and reach out to potential clients, because this is a very big problem, but very few people talk about it.”