Meet Martha, the founder of a New York-based non profit organization called Blissful Bedrooms. Blissful bedrooms is a grassroots organization that takes remodeling to a whole new level of outreach—transforming bedrooms for the severely disabled young adult who by and large spend most of their time in their bedrooms.
"It all started with a craigslist add", she told me yesterday afternoon. Blissful Bedrooms was founded in 2009 by Martha and Alex Gold-Dvoryadkin. The married couple decided to paint the bedroom of one of Martha’s former physical therapy/yoga students, Tamisha (“Butterfly”), a young woman with fixed contractures of her extremities who can basically only move her head. "When my husband and I started, it wasn't the greatest remodel. We hung up some butterflies and painted the wall her favorite colors... Even so, at the end, the expericence was really touching. I'd hate for it to sound cliche, but it really moved us."
Martha has been working as a physical therapist since 2002 in a New York City District 75 public school for children with a wide range of disabilities including cerebral palsy, Down’s Syndrome, spina bifida, mental retardation, autism, and other neurological impairments and they range in age from 9-21. As a licensed physical therapist and graduate with a Doctorate degree in Physical Therapy from NYU in addition to being a Certified Kripalu Yoga Teacher, her intention is to one day establish a home base for what she calls Yoga Wonderland, which will bring yoga to children of all abilities, focusing on children with special needs.
It makes perfect sense then that she would create an organization and community whose main mission is to make life happier and more meaningful for young individuals with disabilities who are economically and socially challenged. They do this by:
BEDROOM MAKEOVERS: They create dream bedrooms for young individuals with significant physical disabilities who are wheelchair-dependent, ages 15-25, economically and socially challenged, and spend a great amount of time in their home because of decreased mobilities in society.
COMMUNITY: They invite bedroom makeover recipients, as well as other young people with a wide variety of disabilities,to be part of our community. They nurture this community by organizing regular events, parties, trips, etc. This way young individuals with disabilities have the opportunity to get out of their bedrooms and socialize with their peers, as well as the Blissful Bedroom volunteers they've formed bonds with.
"I firmly believe that your surroundings really affect your mood. It doesn’t matter if they are humble, but that it reflects you and who you are. I find that really inspiring!"
"We’ve grown into the role of designers, which is really exciting to me. We’re really proud of that", Martha adds. "But I couldn’t necessarily say that there is a particular type of design that we stick to. Usually the recipient of the remodel becomes the master designer. We prefer to be the translator of their ideas through the design. We try to make it functional and unique for them. We definitely love design but we don’t want to sacrifice our budget or creativity. As we grow as designers, we are looking forward to trying some styles that are more design oriented."
At the end of the day, It doesn't really matter what your personal design tastes are. The impact from these bedroom transformations are immensely moving. Most of these young adults and their family have very little and come from poor communities. It's needless to say how powerful it is to have someone not only care about you, but the environment you live in.
Color is also one of Martha's way of expressing herself creatively and within each bedroom remodel. "I am a very colorful person. I can’t wear all black. And I choose to express myself through color and through my emotions—particularly when caring for the kids in my program. I like to make each one of the bedrooms stand out. I want it to be special for them. Most kids with special needs are treated special, but often in a negative way. So they sometimes end up loosing their identity. We want them to feel special in a positive way and to be able to fully express themselves. We feel that we can help them do that by remodeling their rooms."
At Blissful Bedroom, their goal is to remodel one bedroom every month. Their volunteer crew is usually made up of about 20 people per remodel. None of these individuals receive compensation. There is no office, nor is there a place to store their mateirials. But yet and still these volunteers take care of the wide range of tasks; from building, designing, to planning their "reveal" party.
There's more, Blissful Bedrooms has an exciting project planned to begin this May. They need your help and support more than ever to make it happen! This undertaking merges their passion for designing unique and functional personal spaces for disabled youth with the commitment of nurturing a meaningful community, and organizing joyful opportunities that nourish the minds, bodies and souls of the members in their community.
A team of volunteers will be building a BLISSFUL CABIN in the Catskills Mountains of New York. The cabin will serve as a community hub for regular camping trips and retreats for groups of young individuals with disabilities. It will be a place to escape the challenges of inner city life and recharge.
Update: The Cabin has been built! "After four months of 12 onsite, volunteer build weekends between May and September, 2013, as well as several more months of focused work prior to that of designing, planning and preparation by the Blissful Bedrooms Core Team, the Blissful Cabin has been manifested!!! In fact, this sweet country clubhouse has already been christened, filled and surrounded with the love and joyful expressions of the very people who inspired it!"
At LOCZIdesign we care about our local, national and global communities just as much as we care about design. To learn more about how you can help Blissful Bedrooms or any other member of our charitable community, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here for more details.