(PL) Warsaw and Mazovia – Participant Research: Reflective Diary of Rachel Grant (UK)

Notes For Study Trip – Wednesday

Began in the University with reflection on our activities so far, we split into small mixed groups to discuss participatory activities bringing with us our own knowledge and experience to the projects we’d seen.
My Small Group Discussion Notes:

  • Misunderstandings in terminology and it was suggested we have a ‘dictionary’ of terms.
  • We discussed various different models of participation that we had seen and which ones fitted a ‘bottom up’ approach and which ones fitted a ‘top down’ approach.
  • We discussed the terms ‘youth work’ and ‘social work’ and how we define between these and cultural animation.
  • We also discussed the use of art within the projects we’d seen and how we define art.
  • Issues of funding and ethics were discussed and the need to sometimes ‘bend’ or shape projects according to current funding preferences.
  • We felt that although it was all quite new to some people and a lot to take in, we were seeing a broad range of projects and it was interesting to see the different districts, their different needs and the way that projects adapt to these different communities.
  • Finally we discussed multi-culturalism and how it presented itself differently in different countries and that these were also issues that were present in Warsaw. We then came back together with the rest of the group to feed back to each other the discussions from the small groups. These are some of the points that were discussed in the other groups:
  • The communities were all very different and that the active walk that we’d taken on the first day through the streets of Warsaw had been a good introduction to this, looking at actions that related to the ideas of isolation and togetherness. “ ….as a group we animated the city….”
  • Praga – the sense of destruction and beauty both in place and people. A natural meeting between people and walks of life having time together.
  • People were impressed with the organisations that we visited and the opportunities that there were for communities to express themselves. They were also impressed with the level of activism within many communities.
  • Some of the Lithuanians felt that because most culture animation was seen as a voluntary action and not a profession that there were not as many projects happening in their country, they also said that what is seen as culture animation in Poland would be defined in Lithuania as social work rather than culture.
  • Issues of funding and time specific projects were discussed as well as the ongoing need for long term projects for sustained work within communities.
  • There was discussion surrounding the relevance of specific art forms and the community process, also the cafe culture and the benefits of this compared to formal institutions.
  • C.A.L was discussed and the question was asked if Lithuania or the UK had an umbrella organisation like this. In the UK there is a broad range of different networks and organisations on a national and local level but there isn’t necessarily one cohesive network because within the groups there are different aims. Lithuania did have a similar network but mainly for youth work.
  • There was a discussion about NGO’s and the confusion and suspicion of them from other institutions.

• We talked about how as a group on the visit we would like to have more opportunities to speak to participants.

We then created a ‘wish list’ adding what we hoped we would gain from the remainder of the trip.
From here we joined a coach that would travel out to WARKA stopping along the way at three other places before reaching Warka’s cultural centre where we would take part in the St.Andreas celebrations.

Publiczna Szkola Podstawowa

This school had an outbuilding that was once the school teacher’s house but that hadn’t been used as such in over twenty years. Rather than it sitting empty they decided to regenerate it and create a youth/after school club because they identified a need for the children to have somewhere to go outside school hours.

Inside the new ‘club’ there were a number of rooms with sports equipment which had been donated to them by the older members of the community some years before. It had been stored in the school but now that the children had worked together with teachers to renovate this space they were able to re-house it in a dedicated area. This was part of a wider project called ‘Act Local’.

Rainbow

This association for adults and children with disabilities has a building that offers workshops for active and creative therapy. The idea is to bring people with different disabilities here for eight hours a day, five days per week. To have a place here they must be diagnosed with a mental disability.

Here they aim to give them the opportunity to develop their skills and interests. They offer computer skills, life skills, self development and making arts and crafts. They also actively seek to make links with the community and to make a better relationship between the community and the service users.

We discussed during the tour of the centre the fact that funding comes from the government but that there isn’t enough to pay for everything. They have begun selling the crafts that they create in order to generate money for new materials. Although they are very thankful to have the building, it is not purpose built and the rooms are very small but they do their best with what they have. They say that they try and create a family atmosphere where everyone gets along and cares for one another.

Warka Association

The Warka association has their own office which is rare, it is within the local business ‘Prima’. We see a presentation about Mazaria and how different it is to the centre of Warsaw. Smaller towns and villages are full of people who know each other very well and children often have to work with their parents, in Warka this would be farming apples. They don’t have time to do anything else and there are not many other things to do anyway but they do have good local leaders.
The Warka association organise many activities, workshops and campaigns for their community. They give small grants, they have an association animator and they have the organisation of voluntary fire fighters who are very active in the community helping to create fun days and doing renovations and such things.

Warka Cultural Centre

Here we spent the evening with the community of Warka, particularly the young people, who took us along with them in their exploration and celebration of St.Andreas who it was once believed was a saint that helped young people to find their future partners. We had great fun moving around the building where we met with young girls dressed up who performed various ‘tricks’ as they told us our fortunes. After this we shared cake, heard songs and explanations of the history of the celebration and were given a budding branch that it was said if it flowers by Christmas then next year we will meet our husband/wife!! The highlight for me was laughing and joking with the young people, as we shared this amusing and yet interesting experience together.

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