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Centre-Stage: Initiatives that Tackle Social Problems

12. January 2012

 What the winning organisations do is simple but not self-evident – they help others: social or ethnic minorities, disabled or traumatised people, children and adults on the margins of society are the beneficiaries of their work. Normally, it is difficult for these organisations to get attention and financial support for what they are doing. Especially in societies that underwent political upheaval, social and economic crisis and violent conflicts not long ago. But on 21 February 2008, people who care for others were awarded and put centre-stage.

ERSTE Foundation invited all 20 finalists and, among them, the 10 winners. Also more than 150 leading personalities from Austria and the Balkan region came to Ljubljana to celebrate the ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration 2007. Present were business people and politicians, activists from NGOs, protagonists of the cultural field as well as the media. The Award intends to support social engagement and make it visible for everybody. It conveys the message to the wider public that social activities should be recognised and honoured.

ERSTE Foundation invited all 20 finalists and, among them, the 10 winners. Also more than 150 leading personalities from Austria and the Balkan region came to Ljubljana to celebrate the ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration 2007. Present were business people and politicians, activists from NGOs, protagonists of the cultural field as well as the media. The Award intends to support social engagement and make it visible for everybody. It conveys the message to the wider public that social activities should be recognised and honoured.

A. Treichl: We can make a difference in society by improving the lives of individuals

Miki Manojlovi, one of Serbia’s most acclaimed actors who since his lead role in Emir Kusturica’s hit movie “Underground” has been famous far beyond South Eastern Europe, presented the Award Ceremony. To his question why so many guests came to this event, the chairman of the managing board of ERSTE Foundation, Andreas Treichl, answered: “We invited them to honour people and their initiatives who through their profound and sustainable engagement have proven that we can make a difference in society by improving the lives of individuals. The initiatives who are here tonight help people who are marginalized or even in distress to fully participate in the life of their society.” Mr. Treichl added that ERSTE Foundation wants to support the human endeavours of these organisations and stress that their work and efforts are crucial for the well-being of societies throughout Europe.

 

E. Busek: The winning projects are models of good practise for others

To Mr. Manojlovi’s question what it means to be a winner of the ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration, Erhard Busek, the Special Co-ordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe and chairman of the board of trustees of ERSTE Foundation, said: “First of all it means responsibility. The organisations and their projects winning tonight are models of good practise and will be presented to the outside world as such: they will and must set the example for others to follow.”

 

Over 400 applications, 20 finalists, 10 winners

More than 400 organisations responded to the call for submissions to the Award in summer 2007. The call was open to non-profit organisations as well as to the public sector, private initiatives, religious communities and the media. 293 applications fulfilled the Award’s entry criteria. An international jury worked with a shortlist of 30 projects to decide on the 20 finalists and the 10 winners. Out of the 10 jury members, 7 came from South Eastern Europe.

 

First Prize (EUR 20,000): Young Bosnians Volunteer for Social Projects Volunteer Finance 2007 is a project organised by Bosnian NGO UG Infohouse. 

The initiative was designed to foster social volunteering and integration among Bosnia and Herzegovina’s youth and business, as well as to boost the self-confidence and the prospects of the young. During the so-called “Social Day”, high-school students do one day of volunteering in a company or in a NGO. Their wages are not paid to them, but instead put into a Social Day account. In parallel, the participating schools develop concepts for social projects which the student groups present to each other at the so-called “Idea Fair”. The students vote on all the projects and the best five are put into practice using the money earned during the Social Day. In 2007, 380 students from 17 high schools in Sarajevo participated in the project, raising a total of 6,396 Bosnia-Herzegovina Marks, or 3,240 EUR. “Even though ever since the beginning of the project Volunteer Finance we were aware of the fact that we were launching something new in and for Bosnia and Herzegovina”, Dženana Aladjuz of UG Infohouse commented on the first prize. “Although we received many acknowledgements from young persons, professors, businessmen, parents and media, the news about being granted ERSTE Foundation’s award surprised us very much, especially due to the competition being rather harsh – 402 projects from the region.”

 

Second Prize (EUR 15,000): Croatian City Library Cares for Disabled Readers

In 2007 the Zagreb City Libraries initiated their project Library Wide Open Door. It gives children and young adults access to library services, simultaneously equipping them with useful skills and fostering their integration into society. Children with impaired hearing or speech as well as dyslexia are included in regular classes where they read together and express their reactions in discussions and drawings. The creativity and self-esteem of children with development disabilities and light mental disorders are stimulated through art and theatre workshops and meetings with authors. For visually impaired children, a musical education is offered which not only teaches participants about music and instruments, but also encourages them to use computers. In the first year of its existence, more than 700 children and young adults took part in the Library Wide Open Door project. “We are very happy to receive this award, also because this is a good occasion for presenting all our activities to a new audience”, said director Davorka Basti. “And it is a wonderful opportunity for meeting other organisations of the region that work, like us, with people in difficult situations”.

Two Third Prizes (EUR 10,000 each): Traumatized children get help in Kosovo and a Serbian project fights ethnical conflicts with the help of photo cameras

After the jury’s rating two projects were in the third place ex aequo. For that reason two third prizes are awarded in 2007. The project “Schools Protecting the Well- Being of Children” found an ingenious way of reaching a large group of Kosovo’s Media Information ERSTE Stiftung DIE ERSTE österreichische Spar-Casse Privatstiftung Graben 21, A-1010 Wien www.erstestiftung.org Communications T +43(0)50100-15105, F +43(0)50100-12768 press@erstestiftung.org children and helping them deal with their psycho-social and emotional difficulties. The project goes to Kosovar communities to train local pedagogues, psychologists and medical workers as psycho-social experts who then run seminars for elementary school teachers. This “train-the-teacher” model empowers Kosovo’s school teachers and reaches through to the entire 6-15 age bracket. “The voluntary work as a part of the Center for Promotion of Education (QPEA) has engaged a large number of youth as volunteers having an influence in becoming responsible citizens, developing the feeling of humanity, solidarity and tolerance”, said Ramush Lekaj, Executive Director of QPEA. By the summer of 2007, Schools Protecting the Well-Being of Children had covered 40% of Kosovo, training 53 trainers who instructed 9,639 teachers. 120,000 school-children were reached by the programme in this way.

Serbian NGO Kiosk chose photography as a medium for the deconstruction of prejudices. Its project “Communication – Photographic workshops with young people in multiethnic groups” started in 2005 with Albanian, Serbian and Roma highschool students in South Serbia. In 2006, Kosovo, Sandžak and Vojvodina were added, and in 2007, Croatia and Bosnia. Each instalment of the project takes 13 weeks and includes 20 students from the same region who have different ethnic backgrounds. With the support of professional photography artists, they take pictures which become the basis for their interaction. The photographs have been presented in two publications and nine exhibitions in Serbia and abroad. “Our strong belief is that the necessity of dialogue needs to be promoted at all times, but today maybe more than ever”, Ana Adamovic and Milica Pekic Conev of KIOSK commented their prize. “Most of all, for us this Award is important because of all the young people, 100 of them, who have participated in Communication project since 2005. We are very grateful for having had the chance to work with them. They invested their energy and creativity into Communication project and made it possible.”

Recognition Awards (EUR 5,000): From Invisible Children to the Kings of the Street Six projects received Recognition Awards: In Tuzla, the organisation “Girlfriends” established a Centre for Female Entrepreneurship that offers employment and job training to unemployed women. Belgrade’s Center for Integration of Youth established an outreach-platform and opened a drop-in centre for street children with their project The Invisible Child. With its project The Great Game of Equal Opportunities, Slovenian association Društvo Mladinski Ceh found an unconventional and playful way of supporting the integration of socially excluded children. In Ljubljana, Kings of the Street became the first street paper in the country. The association Steps of Hope runs a Center for Children with Multiple Disabilities in Tuzla. “Support for the education, psycho-social development and integration of Roma children” is a project run by “The Bread of Life” in two municipalities in greater Belgrade.

A Special Prize of the Jury in the shape of a ten-day networking visit to Vienna was awarded to the Committee for Human Rights in Leskovac and its founder, Dobrosav Neši. In addition, the finalists chose from among their group the winner of the Social Practitioners’ Award. It went to Girlfriends and their Centre for Female Entrepreneurship in Tuzla. Girlfriends received the sculpture that became the icon of the entire Award: a spiky “sea urchin”, carefully to be handed over with protecting gloves, designed by the highly acclaimed Croatian artist Sanja Ivekovic. This concept “communicates the tension, the differences, the difficulties, but also the need for mutual understanding, carefulness and open interaction between all the involved agents: the representatives of the donors and of the beneficiaries of the award”, described the artist. Boris Marte, Managing Director of ERSTE Foundation, is confident that the Award will create an international pool of best-practise models. “We want to motivate people to find new ways to solve social problems and to enter into a dialogue on future social development. The projects, we have seen tonight, can be inspiring for others.” The next call for the ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration 2008 will start in September 2008 including additional countries in South Eastern Europe.