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.

 

 

Monika and her short-term-ESC story!

I was supposed to spend these two months somewhere else but within one day everything changed and I ended up in Joannina. And I couldn’t end up better.

The story of this ESC starts when I had to back out of my planned internship in the Czech Republic because I was unable to find any affordable accommodation. I also had another internship planned for November and a nightmarish job at that time. I had two options: I could either stay in that job for another two months or find something instead. Guess what came to my mind.

When I recalled that I could do a short-term voluntary service, I immediately checked where I could go. I didn’t think much, I just didn’t want to waste next two months in a pointless job. I searched the ESC web page and wrote a post on one of the Facebook groups being pretty sure I wouldn’t find anything at the last minute. I had only that two months when I could go somewhere and couldn’t change the dates much but surprisingly I found many offers. I selected three projects. Greece won based on very good vibes during the interview with Dora and the fact that I had already been to Greece a year before and had very good memories from that time.

I am this kind of person who jumps into new things recklessly, without much consideration and then freaks out that I all will go wrong. It wasn’t different this time and I got afraid that I might end up in a place that I wouldn’t like in the end. So I went to the airport in early September all stressed out. Unnecessarily.

I seriously couldn’t find a better place.

We worked in a refugee camp with kids from 5 to 12 years old and later also with kids from 1 to 4. We provided them with informal education by crafts, playing outdoor games or teaching simple rules. For me this experience was particularly challenging because I’d never felt comfortable with kids but thought I could make it for two months. Now I miss those kiddies! I wonder how long I will hear “teacher!” in my head 😀

But my two months in Joannina was not only the camp. I made friends, I ate out a lot, I visited another part of Greece, I learned a lot about myself, I made important decisions, I struggled and won a couple of times, I made memories. Time passed so fast but two months were enough to keep Joannina in my heart forever. But the most important part of this adventure were people I met on my way: my flatmates, other volunteers of the project and of Agia Eleni, the team, volunteers and friends of the Youth Centre with special place for Dora, the best coordinator! You guys made this time so special and unforgettable.

I made this choice based on the chain of haphazard events and couldn’t be more happy about the result. Thank you Joannina! Hope to see you soon.

Monika was a volnteer in the short-term project: “Impact on local community of Ioannina” run by Youth Center of Epirus / AMKE and funded by the European Solidarity Corps of the European Union.