Andrzej Juros

Ashoka Fellow

Andrzej rozpoczynał działalność jako organizator praktycznych programów treningowych dla osób z niepełnosprawnością, szczególnie dla tych żyjących na odizolowanych obszarach wiejskich. Obecnie działa też na rzecz przywrócenia podmiotowości nie tylko osobom indywidualnym, ale też grupom lokalnym, mniejszym instytucjom działającym głównie na obszarach wiejskich.


This description of Andrzej Juros's work was prepared when Andrzej Juros was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999 .


Andrzej Juros is enabling Poland's disabled people to build strategies for realizing their dreams and potential. His unique program, which involves volunteer professionals and college students, provides critical support to the disabled and is changing the structure of higher education in Poland.

The New Idea

Andrzej is creating practical training programs for disabled people, particularly those who live in isolated rural areas. Andrzej's model replaces their feeling of helplessness with a sense of empowerment, as the disabled person becomes an agent of social improvement. Using his background as a psychologist and his familiarity with academia, Andrzej has introduced a new agenda for universities: that of providing students with opportunities to gain practical skills in community programs in addition to learning theoretical, abstract knowledge. Students build local support groups that help the disabled create strategies for living with potential and promise rather than oppression and fear. In turn, the students not only directly experience the nature of disabilities, but learn about volunteerism, social work, and the management of community-based organizations.

The Problem

Poland's need for skilled change agents is greater than ever, as social service agencies struggle to serve a fragile, newly democratic civil sector. Persons with disabilities have a particularly great need. Although the disabled represent an estimated 15 percent of Poland's population, few receive care and training sufficient for realizing their dreams and potential. A survey of one thousand disabled people in Leczna, for example, revealed that less than 1 percent receive support from local or national agencies. Many of the state programs available to assist disabled people focus on urban areas, leaving the rural disabled particularly disadvantaged.

Social service professionals often lack the knowledge to assist the disabled. Central European universities focus on teaching abstract theory rather than the practice and skills of social activism. Few universities offer courses in the development and management of social-service organizations, and fewer still provide clinical programs that link students with real-world settings. To a greater degree than in the United States, students graduate from universities with few practical skills for applying their knowledge in a social framework.

The Strategy

In 1993, Andrzej created an organization that integrates disabled persons into the community by providing them with vocational training and counseling. His experiences with the organization taught Andrzej the many ways in which the dreams of the disabled are frustrated, and how much below their potential they live. Understanding that vocational training alone might be insufficient, Andrzej created a network of local self-help groups, each led by a professional, that assists the disabled to overcome feelings of helplessness and frustration and encourages them to talk about their dreams and goals. Participants select group members from among relatives, neighbors, and friends, and the groups serve as a support and resource.

In order to extend the program to rural areas, where the disabled have few services and options, Andrzej trains representatives in each voivodship (county), who then instruct local facilitators. By 1999, the program had been adopted in seven of sixteen voivodships.

Andrzej is institutionalizing his model by designing and implementing curricula in major Polish universities that will realign the relationship of higher education to social change. These programs link students with disabled persons and encourage students to work with social service groups and develop skills to revamp strategies in a range of areas of social need. In 1999, he introduced the program at the Catholic University of Lublin, which is collaborating with universities in Gdansk, Warsaw, and Cracow. In three years, he plans to expand to the remaining Polish universities.

Andrzej is collaborating with colleagues internationally. He has developed close working relationships with Dr. William Kiernan at Children's Hospital in Boston, as well as with a colleague in Portugal, and he is working with a German organization for the disabled in a project funded by the German government. Andrzej has received funding from the Rockefeller Brother's Foundation, Mott Foundation, and the Stefan Batory Foundation.

The Person

Andrzej has always been a leader and manager. In primary school, he organized a group of students who wanted to learn Latin. As a high-school student, he organized fellow students to teach themselves "real" history rather than the official history presented in schools. Another of his groups helped students with deep emotional problems. Later, as a member of Solidarity, he was involved in reforming education at the national level.

For years Andrzej taught core courses at the Catholic University of Lublin, but as his interests became less theoretical and more community-focused, he began carving a niche for himself in cross-disciplinary fields, incorporating elements of sociology and public policy into his work as well. University administrators have given him free reign to devote his energies to developing the social reform initiatives in which he is so deeply invested. Andrzej is also a consultant for a pilot project of the United Nations Development Program that is establishing collaborations between local government and social service groups.