September, October and November were among the most beautiful and intense months of implementation of our Erasmus + project, CREAT.Y.V. In 15 days put together, we’ve visited over 20 organizations and institutions from three European cities, Carpi, Prague and Bucharest; we’ve learned what they do for their communities; we’ve been excited to see young people with low opportunities from Romania, the Czech Republic and Italy making friends and understanding better the world around them and themselves. We have all lived a strong experience of knowing and (re)discovering ourselves as humans.
Our CREAT.Y.V. journey has started in the Italian city of Carpi. On the first day, the young Romanians (eight in number) and the Czech Republic ones have interacted and known better through activities inspired by the CREA.T.YVV training programme at the House of Volunteering in Carpi. We then enjoyed together with young Italians the sports activities in Eden – a youth center with inner and outer study and playing spaces. In Eden there are conferences, meetings, debates, basketball tournaments, soccer or volleyball, you can celebrate your birthday or you can enroll in music classes, play tennis or fussball.
In the days that followed, we had exciting experiences at the ‘Al di la Muro’ Association (The other side of the wall) – an association in the mental health field made up of seniors, all volunteers, who offered our youngsters their tenderness. We sang along with the volunteer seniors of the Parkinson Group, an association that supports people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and their families. We played Bingo in a residential care center for elderly people of the non-governmental organization AMICA. We visited a 1943 transition concentration camp (Fossoli), which is nowadays maintained with volunteers. We were impressed by the Francesa green oasis, administered by WWF volunteers and the Panda Carpi Association – a protected natural environment spread over an area of 25,000 square meters – populated by birds and animals, ducks, egrets, wild geese, squirrels, foxes, etc. And last, but not least, we were invited to a social lunch organized by Bruno Losi – a day care center where seniors and also young volunteers carry out various activities, including fundraising, to support the community.
The next stop was in Prague. The first day of the mobility of young Romanians (eight young people other than in Carpi) was dedicated to workshops using creative dramatic techniques at Kardašovská Community Center. Our youngsters practiced non-verbal communication, body language and role-playing, discovering themselves and discovering others. Lots of activities and visits to community centers followed after that. In Nová Trojka, for cultural services for family and children, and in Žižkostel community centres for the underprivileged, we reminded that music connects people beyond words, and that through music and dance the intercultural and inner barriers disappear. We were impressed by Život 90 services provided for the seniors: The Elderly Phone; Emergency button (municipality-financed) – a GPS bracelet which allows the elderly to report a medical problem; legal advisory services; respite services for families who care for older parents or grandparents, etc.
We have experienced art therapy in two community centers, Husitská, and the ART cultural centre dedicated to people with mental health problems and people with disabilities, where we had han-made activities. We were the guests of Vnitroblok – an urban cultural space renovated and rearranged by two young entrepreneurs who, starting from their own passion and work, came to own a company with 50 employees and contribute to a new multi-layered community concept (café, shop, concert hall, space for courses, etc.). We were at the “forest house”, at Domus Vitae, a newly opened social enterprise that hires long-term unemployed aged over 50 and where seniors can learn not only IT and English, but also political science. In 2017, they set up a bistro and a catering service in which disadvantaged women work.
At “People in Need”, one of the largest non-governmental organizations in the Czech Republic, we were welcomed by three volunteer elderly ladies who told us about the satisfaction they have when they see their work with children being rewarded by the evolution and personal development of the kids.
We met the people in the community center Women without Home who help homeless women find work, give them a bed to rest during the day, food (in the Czech Republic there is a functional anti-waste law), clothes from donations, and psychological services. In this center, we also met Felix, a little cat which purrs among homeless women and relishes their souls.
The last stage of this initiation travel was experienced with young Czechs and Romanians in November, in Bucharest. After the workshops on creative theatrical techniques, hosted by General Direction of Social Assistance and Child Protection District 1, we were received by Princess Margarita of Romania Foundation. Our youngsters “got acquainted” with Elderly Phone – the only free and confidential phone service in Romania dedicated to 65+ people. We have learned that since the beginning till now, older people have benefited from over 5,500 hours of support, information and social counseling. And that, beyond the useful information they need, seniors just need sometimes to talk to someone. We then visited the Generations Centre of the same Foundation, where the young people discussed with children and volunteers of the center and participated in intergenerational workshops. Such centres exist in several cities across the country, their purpose being to stimulate interaction and solidarity between generations, the exchange of values and knowledge among young people and the elderly.
There followed visits to two representative organizations for the services they provide in the community – CARP Omenia Association and Parada Foundation. CARP Omenia provides over 40 types of services to seniors. Older people can develop creative activities in the association’s day centre, they have access to medical services, medicines at producer price, tailoring and shoe repair services, haircuts and hairdressing, and those who have walking difficulties and with a precarious material situation benefit from a warm meal delivered at home. The visit to the Parada Foundation impressed us with the care that the “big people” of the Foundation have for the children and families of the street. In a way, the centre resembles Women without Home one in Prague. It is a respite centre, a “stop” where children and young people come, benefit from primary services (nutrition, hygiene, health), educational services and creativity activities. It is “a place where they feel safe”.
On our way through Bucharest we stopped to have a tea at SanThé, opened by Bucharest General Direction of Social Protection and Child Protection (DGASMB). A social enterprise in which disadvantaged people have gone through a training programme to be employed afterwards.
Tea revenues are used to open more such teahouses in Bucharest. We then attended District 6 Estuar Social Centre activities. Estuar Foundation is an NGO mainly dealing with adults with mental health problems and those facing temporary problems of adaptation and communication. Estuar has several centres providing social services for rehabilitation and reintegration (support groups for beneficiaries and workers, recreational and creative activities, lucrative workshops, therapeutic activities, etc.).
At District 4 Seniors Club we had a real intergenerational party. The young Czechs and the seniors of the Club spent their time together enjoying Saints Michael and Gabriel celebration. They took part in a creative Christmas decoration workshop, took pictures, they sang Romanian songs, and danced on folk music.
We wish to thank our project partners that accompanied us in this journey – Anziani e non solo (Italy), EUDA (Czech Republic), Pro Vobis Association (Romania), as well as to all organizations and institutions from the three countries which were with us all the way.