DomEQ

Even in Corona times we will not stop meeting new people, may it be via Zoom, Skype, or any other video messenger. So did we with Dawid Wojtyczka from the Equality House, or DomEQ, in Krakow.

 

The EQ-House is a place that was founded in 2016 to create a place that is offering a safe space for the LGTBQ+ community here in Krakow. LGBTQ+ is the shortening of the words Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual, Queer, and every other sexual orientation which there is e.g. Pansexuality. 

 

By meeting Dawid we had the chance to talk with someone who is working in the DomEQ (Equality house) so, he could give us some insides into what the organization is doing and what they are standing for.

 

When one lived in Poland for a certain time, one will realize that the LGTBQ+ community is still facing a lot of problems in this country. Either through the given laws by the government which makes it impossible to marry for two partners of the same sex or to change your gender in a less complicated and expensive way. Also, due to society’s high percentage of Christians homosexuality is something which is rather frowned upon than accepted or even tolerated. 

Exactly for these reasons exists DomEQ. With a team of Lawyers, Psychologists and other supportive professionals DomEQ supports people who are threatened by either social exclusion, live in fear of physical violence due to their sexual orientation, or need somebody who is representing them in court if it comes to matters like the acknowledgment of one’s gender. 

 

But besides that, DomEQ gives way more than just simple support. It is a place in which members of the mentioned minority groups can meet without fearing to be frowned upon or being called names. A place in which heterosexual, transsexual as homosexual people stay together to celebrate what makes us stay strong, even though it might not be after the typical model of Adam and Eve, but Adam and Steve.

 

Dawid showed us, that trough these easy things such as watching movies together, doing a BBQ, or any other thing, as small as it may seem to us, we are contributing to society by laying an accepting and powerful fundament on which one can build on.

 

Of course, we did not only talk about the situation in Poland, as a matter of facts it would be quite foolish to pass the opportunity to have a look at the other countries, where each of us volunteers originates from, to see how their societies and government is dealing with mentioned people. We found out that Belgium and Spain (after the Netherlands in 2000) were the first countries that passed a law which makes it possible for everybody to marry, not looking at their genders but at two humans who want to be together. 

 

Sadly, we also had to learn, that there are worse places to be part of the LGTBQ+ community such as Turkey and Egypt. 

 

All in all,  it was a fairly interesting and uplifting meeting. To see that Poland is moving forwards towards an open and accepting society gives one joy and makes one look forward to the day on which same-sex marriages and partnerships are accepted, tolerated, and part of our everyday life.

 

Rethinking Refugees- A meeting with Sindhuja

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal, and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.[1]

It is important for your understanding to define the term “refugee” first so that you know on what base we were talking about this topic together with one of the founders of “Rethinking refugees”, Sindhuja Sankaran.

Rethinking Refugees is a nonprofit organization in Poland, especially active in Krakow, which set its goal to educate Polish citizens if it comes to the ongoing refugee crisis. Furthermore, they want to raise awareness of a multicultural society by organizing events and meetings between a group of minorities and the Polish society to break down prejudices and prevent e.g. the rise of Islamophobia.

 

One this one evening Sindhuja took some of her precious time to meet with us the volunteers in which she showed us what is happening currently and how we can try to change something in our society at home and in Krakow.

 

The first situation she decided to have a closer look at, was the terrible situation in the refugee camps on the Greek island of Lesbos. Sindhuja spent some time there and as a professor for Psychology she gave us not only insides on the hygienical situation in these camps, in which more than 100 humans have to share only one bathroom, but also on how this inflicts the mental health of the people who are living there.

Though the situation of the refugees in the Mediterranean Sea is still commonly known, maybe not as detailed as Sindhuja presented it to us, but also not something we were not aware of. If you investigate further, leaving the European continent we were quite surprised though what else was happening.

Not a lot of people seem to know about the situation the people of the Rohingyas found themselves in.

Statelessness.

At first statelessness mind sound like nothing too bad, maybe you gain some freedom, traveling around without having any government which you are staying representative for. Though the thought of traveling is already bursting into nonexistence. Without citizenship of a certain state you are screwed. How do you want to travel without any passports, ID, or something similar to this? Furthermore, all government institutions are only working for citizens. You are nothing in front of the state, meaning you will not get any help from them because you are not existing.

The Government of Myanmar is using this current technique to control, suppress, exploit, and finally persecute the people of the Rohingyas, without facing any intervention due to their lack of citizenship.

Because of this situation Myanmar is one of the countries, besides Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Somalia, which rates highest amongst the countries which’s people are fleeing their country.

Even though there are so many terrible things right now happening abroad, Sindhuja showed us ways of how to help these people and the ones who are facing racism or other phobias in our society. May it be meetings in which you just gather to talk and to eat with each other, informational events to spread awareness, workshops, and theater classes in which the local community interacts with mentioned humans.

That is another thing at least I learned during this meeting. We are not only speaking of “some refugees” we are speaking of humans like you, me my neighbor, or my grandma. We are just lucky enough to currently be in a much better situation, but you never know when the leave will turn.

We should not forget that we are not talking about numbers or diseased people, but of individuals who have dreams and visions. People seeking a better, or sometimes just a life.

It will take some time, but if we are staying persistent and keep on going, we are contributing a huge part to the creation of an equal, accepting, and tolerating society.

 

[1] https://www.unrefugees.org/refugee-facts/what-is-a-refugee/

The Founder of the Special Schools

Let me tell you of a woman whose compassion leat to the foundation of the well-known special schools here in Krakow. A woman not afraid to take matters in her own hands, not fearing any obstacles. A woman who never intended to do something like this and ended up in a different profession than she ever thought.

Quite a while ago Maria Orkisz had a talk with a concerned mother, dealing with her strong physically and mentally impaired daughter. It was about the struggles of this mother, how everyday life was affected, and the feeling of maybe not giving her daughter the best she could have if it comes to her education.

This was the moment when Mrs. Orkisz realized, that besides specific communities, which take care of these children, teenagers, and adults, there has not been any other institution that provides in a professional way suiting education for these humans.

Driven by the feeling of having to help, to do something, Mrs. Orkisz decided together with the help of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in her heart, that if there is no such place yet, she will make one. Laying the first brick which builds the Special Schools we know today.

We as the volunteers had the honor to meet Mrs. Orkisz via Zoom. It is more than just an “I have heard of her meeting” because the special schools are the biggest hosting organization that IB Polska is cooperating with.

Meanwhile Mrs. Orkisz is a dainty woman in higher age nevertheless she is on fire if it comes to her life which she dedicated to the less represented part of modern society.

The meeting with her made us aware of what an amazing person is sitting in front of us, by her being a perfect example of how one can bring change to the world by persistency, passion, and fierceness.

We could see that Mrs. Orkisz spoke directly from her heart by the sheer amount of things she had to tell, and don’t get me wrong, it was amazing to listen to her, but everybody’s listening-endurance is gone somewhen, making it quite hard to focus after a crazy long time. It makes one feel glad to see older people, who are in such an advanced age, full of energy, and still ready to fight for what they created.

In the end we even met her husband Mr. Orkisz who shares his life with his wife.

Thank you again Mrs. Orkisz for being such an inspiration if it comes to commitment, faithfulness, and love in person. It is people like you who are carrying society and especially you who gave hundreds of students a beautiful experience even though their impairments. Leaving us with the urge and motivation to do something in our society, in our countries.

 

 

Easter in Italy

Since Italy is a religious country Easter is celebrated everywhere and in different ways, even by the ones who are not religious. I’m sure there are many traditions in whole Italy but in this text I am going to talk about the ones which are famous in my region, Apulia.

Starting from Palm Sunday I can say that people are used to go to church in the morning, especially the masses at 10 am are full of children and parents. The tradition is that people, after the Sunday mass, exchange crosses which are done with palm leaves, to wish peace to the others.

It is known that in this festivity, people who were in conflict before try to solve their issues and gift the other a real small olive tree. Palm Sunday is a day which brings people closer and allow them to make peace with one another.

Concerning Easter, it is a bigger festivity than the Palm Sunday since it marks the resurrection of Jesus. Of course also in this day it is tradition to partecipate to the morning mass. But the biggest traditions have their bases in the italian cuisine. For Easter, as also for Christmas, families are brought together to celebrate this festivity and they have Easter lunch together. It is tradition to eat lamb and hard boiled eggs. Besides, there are two famous sweet dishes that are eaten on Easter: one is almost always handmade, the other one can be bought. The first sweet dish is called “Scarcelle”. It is basically a simple dough made out of flour, eggs, sugar and milk, which gets shaped into Easter-like shapes, for example: a bunny, an egg or a dove. After the baking, the shapes are decorated with sprinkles or chocolate eggs. It is tradition to decorate the “scarcella” with an hard boiled egg at the center to represent the body of Christ.

 

The second sweet dish is calles “Colomba”, which literally translates to “dove”, because it is what it represents. It is an egg based dough, shaped like a dove, baked and finally decorated with white sugar sprinkles and almonds on top.

But the modern symbol of italian Easter is the chocolate egg. It is tradition to gift kids and adults a big chocolate egg with a surprise inside. It can be bought in normal stores or it can be done in a pastry shop and the surprise can be personalized. People have hidden engagement rings in easter eggs as a surprise! Kids (and adults) wait for the Easter time to enjoy their chocolate eggs.

On-Arrival Training in Warsaw of Dylan, Fabian and Theo, 2019

 

The on-arrival training started for us (Dylan, Fabian and Theo) on a Monday morning. We stayed the whole week in Agrykola hostel in Warsaw, which is the on-arrival hostel for all the volunteers from Poland. In this week 22 volunteers from all over Poland came together for 6 days to take part in the on-arrival Training. It is to say that their countries of origin are distributed all over Europe, from Spain, France, Germany over Ukraine, Georgia and more.

The usual day started around 8:30 with the breakfast, after that the workshops were held. These workshops were led by two trainers, which created these workshops according to our interests and needs, thus every training has its own focus depending on the volunteers. In our case we had to write down all our questions concerning the next month and out of these questions the trainers modelled the topics and tasks of this week. Most of the time we dealt with the topics in small groups and in a non-formal way. For example, to find out more about the polish culture we had to do interviews with locals and afterwards present them to the group. The way of presentation was supposed to be a creative one, so we had some films, quizzes and even card tricks as a way of presenting a topic. Every group told their own stories due to the questions which were made clear in the beginning by the participants of the groups, according to their field of interest and were supposed to make the polish culture understandable for everybody. It is quite challenging to work well in a group with people you know for 1 week, thus the coordinators had to strengthen the team building process by playing some ice breakers with us volunteers. For example, passing the hostel corridor by only touching a piece of paper, under the condition that there are only 29 pieces for the hole group… These games helped us first of all to get to know each other and of course improved the way we worked together. Which was also important for choosing the perfect bar/club for everyone in the evening. Due to the fact, that the sessions were ending at 18:00 the whole evening is up to the volunteers and we had the pleasure to discover all the different places and amazing bars and clubs of Warsaw. Especially the region around Nowy Swiat is very recommendable.

But there were also two activities after the dinner organised by the trainers, at Tuesday it was a guided tour through the city centre and the other one is a surprise which is connected with old polish culture. We don’t want to spoil here any information though, so just wait for it and try it by your own.

But back to the normal training-day at Agrykola, which was departed in the main sessions from 9:30-13:00 and 15:00-18:00, including 2 breaks and a lot of nice food. Our topics were very different, from polish culture over polish language, feelings connected with a cultural shock, to problems which you must face during the ESC, our rights and obligations and much more.

Every topic was brought to us in a different way, for example we learned more about our rights and obligations through a quiz and the answers from the trainers. Some groups showed us the different problems and their solutions while being abroad as a theatre. Furthermore, we learned more about polish language through a self-made memory game. By the story of a superhero who had to fight against the evil powers of the Cultural Shock we gathered ideas how to deal with this phenomenon. And especially these non-formal ways of education helped us a lot to remember the tips and tricks for good. So, this was the first source where we got a lot of interesting information for our future.

Another source were the other volunteers, which had experienced other situations, been longer in Poland or are simply older than us and could give us a bunch of information for our stay here. In addition, it was a great meeting because all the volunteers were out of whole Poland and if you found some friends there you are welcome in many very interesting cities all over Poland and the world.

 

 

In the end we can say,  that the on-arrival training was a very important and interesting experience and even better than we expected it to be. Particularly to meet all the new people, getting a big bunch of information about a lot of topics from the trainers and the volunteers, improving our polish skills a little bit, getting to know Warszawa(how its originally called in Poland) and learning more about ourselves, ending in heading back to Krakow with a totally new mindset.

 

So, for everyone who is going to face the on-arrival training in the future, just enjoy the week and try to get as much as possible out of it.

 

Very Special Mothers Day in cafe BUSZ

 

We organized all together an event for mothers of disabled children. It was held in a picturesque place that it was about to open for customers – cafe BUSZ. We were first in that new place.

We were around 10 volunteers and our goal was to interact with children while their mothers had cosmetic tratments.

I was satisfied with taking part in such activities cause my experience in working with disabled children is small. I think the work with vulnerable people requires attention, empathy, inner energy but I was doubting whether I could have such features.

I started to observe how another volunteer Zeynep was communicating with one guy, using gestures. Later i had found  – it was a Makaton. I asked Zeynep to teach me simple signs and repeated after her. So I had learnt main gestures from Zeynep and used them with Maciek, a sunny boy around 10 years old.

We were playing quiet long trying to knock down pins. How much fun we had!

 

During the whole day I didn’t have any doubts or fears of playing with children. I know that actions are repetetive and very simple but your trophy is smiles on their faces.

Due to this little but decent experience I can say that I dont have any fears or prejudice about people with special needs.

I’m totally sure that they are more than we know about them. They can teach us patience, tolerance and love.

text by: Anna from Equal Volunteering project

 

Rethinking Islam impressions by Maram

My first impression about the event is that it was done professionally. The panel was really interesting and the ideas that were discussed were really important.

On the first day there was a movie by the Lebanese director Nadine Labkeh, I didn’t attend however I heard it was a really good movie. On the second day there was a panel presenting different topics which was really interesting and I think it was planned really well.

It was also very interesting for me that there were people from different backgrounds and different ages coming to attend to know more, there were also volunteers from different countries helping for the event which in my opinion the event wasn’t going to be successful without them.

Afterwards on the same day there was the traditional iftar, which is the name for the meal that Muslims eat after fasting for approximately 15 to 20 hours depending on where you live where they fast of food but also of drinks even water, pretty tough right!!! But they believe in the benefits of it spiritually and health benefits too, in general this happens during Ramadan so fasting for everyday for a whole months and because the event was done in Ramadan time, they celebrated this with lots of people and cherishing the beautiful tradition, even the food was so delicious and there was a lot of Arabic variety which made a really nice atmosphere, the place was also a great time for networking and meeting open minded people.

On the following day there were different workshops that you could choose from and at the end there was a panel discussion.

I believe that this conference was really a success and I think it will be an opening to a whole new thinking about the other.

Text by Maram, volunteer from Egypt

Among young journalists

Last week  I had a pleasure to participate in classes provided by Staromiejskie Centrum Kultury Młodzieży in Cracow. I was invited  as a guest to journalism classes where children learn the basics of journalism and media knowledge. I heard that for the past weeks they have learned what an interview is and they were preparing to conduct and give an interview. This day was a big day for them, because they had to do their first interviews. I was a bit surprised that the guest that was invited to this special day – was me!

At the beginning, the teacher introduced me to the young students. They looked a bit nervous, but for sure not more than me. Then I was asked to tell a bit about the life of a foreigner in Krakow and about my volunteer work. Some children could not resist asking questions in this moment, they were so interested. After that students got into pairs and came to me pair by pair to ask me interview questions that they have already prepared during last classes. Some of them were so interesting. They asked me if it is difficult for me to learn polish and work with kids with disabilities that can not speak spanish or english, they wanted to know what I like the most in Poland and what is my favorite polish dish. Some kids asked what are the differences in the teaching system in Spain and Poland and where children are more polite in schools – in Poland or in Spain.

At the end everyone thanked me for the interview and it was really nice. Even some students wanted to ask additional questions apart from the interview, because they were curious about life in Spain. I saw all children very interested and focused on the work of a journalist.

They did a good job and I hope that in the future they will become great journalists!

Author: Javier Aldana

Meeting between generations in DPS Helclów

Today EVS volunteers Maria from Greece, Josie from Germany, Aurore from France, Maram from Egypt and Zeynep from Turkey visited a place where old people with disabilities live (Dom Pomocy Społecznej im. Helclów w Krakowie). At this interesting meeting the volunteers did some activities to present their countries.

Team of Volunteers ready to action!

Specifically, Aurore from France and Maria from Greece showed to people traditional dances from their countries and put traditional music.  Also Maria and Zeynep make a presentation. At these presentations they showed photos of their countries and they talk about customs and habits typical for Greece and Turkey. People seemed to enjoy it and I think it was a nice opportunity for them to meet people from other countries and listen about other cultures.

Also music was in the event! Josie sang a songs and played music and some people were given an instrument and they have to play music too. The people enjoyed it and they seemed very happy.

Last but not least volunteers cooked a traditional meal of their countries and people who were living at the center tried it. Specifically, the volunteers prepared chalva, Turkish cookies and tiramisu. In general, it was a nice meeting. Both volunteers and people who were living there enjoyed  it.

For old people it was a nice chance to meet people from other countries and spend their day in a creative way and for volunteers it was a nice chance to meet people at a different age and see how works the organization who hosts old people with different kind of problems.

The more you know about different things from you the better you become!

Volunteer got smal hand-made gifts from Seniors

Author: Maria Vezyrea from Greece

Tortilla Festival @ School number 11

On Wednesday 20th of February, a couple of volunteers were invited to School number 11 for the Tortilla festival. It was a joyful event with lots of tortilla, fun and music…

In total, three classes participated in the Tortilla festival. The ultimate goal was to make the tastiest tortilla. In order to do so, the class was divided in small groups of two to four people who then prepared a tortilla at home and presented it at the festival. The jury, consisting of volunteers, then tasted all tortillas and graded them. We must admit that we were surprised by the creativity of the participants! While some tried to respect the traditional recipe, others added some surprising elements like vegetables, meat or even decoration. They were all really delicious and ranking them was quite hard! In the end, we were able to decide on a top three, but not after some debating and discussion between the volunteers.

After eating the tortilla’s, it was time for some musical break. Joao took out his guitar and started playing and singing La Bamba, twice. The first time, only Joao and a few volunteers sang, but the second time all volunteers, students and teachers sang loudly. It’s a fun song to sing and I’m sure some people were singing it all day long as it’s a real earworm!

Below, you can find some impressions from Julieta and Javi, two Spanish volunteers:

Julieta: It was a funny idea that makes children engaged to be part of the event and learn about Spanish culture through it’s cuisine, there was also music by one Spanish volunteer which helped creating the atmosphere. They all did a very good job with their tortillas and sometimes it was difficult to decide.
We end up full of tortilla but we had a great time!

Javi: Yesterday We were in the omelet festival which was very very fun. The children were excited to present their tortillas. First we learnt the history about “Tortilla de patatas” and the children explained how they cooked the tortillas and with what ingredients. Then we went to try those spectacular tortillas of all flavors and shapes. It was a great day in which the volunteers enjoyed a lot with teachers and students.

Text and pictures by Pauline, volunteer from Belgium.

 

 

Visit in Jewish Community Center

On the 7th February, about fifteen volunteers came for a lecture in the Jewish Community Center organised between the center and Internationaler Bund Polska. They got the chance to meet rabbi Avi Baumol who told them about the history of the Jewish community and also about his own story.

Firstly, he talked about himself and his own belonging to jewish community. Born from polish parents in the USA, he came to Poland to teach judaism to people. In fact, many people, jewish or not, want to know about this culture, this believe, according to him. Nowadays, and after everything that happened in the jewish community in the past, there are still many jewish people in the world. Even though they are not so visible, and some of them, according to the rabbi, don’t tell their children they are jewish, we assist to a « reborn » of the belief and the proudness to be jewish.

Then, came the time where volunteers could ask questions and exchange thoughts with the rabbi. Here, a good exchange between them happened. Between his own past and the jewish community’s one, volunteers learned more about the jewish community. Their past in history, also during war, their believes, how they practice being a jew.

And it was more interesting in the fact that, coming from differents countries, differents religions, the curiosity and interest is still the same. This afternoon was about sharing knowledge and stories about jewish community to those people, the volunteers, who now will be able to share it in return.

 

Text by Sarah, volunteer from France.

Nativity Scenes

On 4th of February, volunteers went to the Historical Museum of Kraków to see the exhibition Nativity scene (exhibition still visitable until the 28th of February). Here, they learned about this Krakowian tradition, where Krakowians created a competition to build nativity scene, called szopka. Then, people were invited to choose the most beautiful one. In that exhibition, you can admire some of them. Ones with lights inside, some with little caracters in motion. During this afternoon, volunteers could learn more about Krakowian past and traditions.

Pictures and text by Sarah, volunteer from France.