Community development

Once upon a Time Behind a Forest Deep and a Tunnel

There is a well somewhere in the desert... but only for those who search for it.


Who is behind this?

Zbyněk Vlk


Czech Republic

Who is joining forces?

Fundacja na Rzecz Wspierania Kultur Alternatywnych i Ekologicznych



Idea pitch

It’s beautiful down here, below the mountains. But the land is poor. Many have grown bitter and see no opportunities in their lives. Yet they are to be found – within ourselves. We want to help five different target groups in their search, for through them, this land will take its chances, too, and Europe as well. We want to help fill them in with courage, aspiration, and skills, as those who are fulfilled brim with life-giving fluid. We’ve had too much drought here: our land needs some watering

Where will your project idea take place?

Village Jindřichovice pod Smrkem is located in norhtern part of Bohemia, economically weakest region

What is the specific societal challenge faced by this region?

The Frýdlant region was once called „the land behind the deep forest“, and, after the railroad was built, it became „the land behind the tunnel“. It is one of the poorest regions in the Czech Republic, neighbouring poor Polish counties of Lubań, Lwów and Jelenia Góra. On the other side of the mountains is another economically weak region – Jilemnicko. Only 5% of the Frýdlant region inhabitants have a university degree and 24% have high school (the Czech national average is 13% and 33%). This makes the population vulnerable to populists. Democracy in general is less valued here, people lack interest in public affairs, which is accentuated by local history: the original German inhabitants were forced to leave after WWII and replaced by newcomers from far away.

Who are you doing it for?

1. 30 children 5-15 y.o. from CZ and PL. They need to experience democracy, not learn about it
2. 15 Roma children 5-15 y.o. whose parents won’t let them attend a free school
3. 15 high school students/young adults 15-26 y.o. from CZ and PL. They want to know „how the world works“, but school doesn’t answer their questions
4.10 Roma youth 15-26 y.o. Most are „burnt-out“ due to school and unequal opportunities. They will not attend any workshop, they already segregate themselves
5.20 adults from Jindřichovice interested in public affairs who want to be active but the local authorities are not interested. They meet regularly, plan a revitalizing of the park, bike trails etc., and try to keep Jindřichovice connected to Poland over the border, which the municipality is trying to close down

How do you plan to get there?

Group 1: They will attend Free Democratic Schools Ronja (CZ) and Mandala (PL), meet during trips, games or education events.
Group 2: They will attend a weekly horse riding and sports club. They are full of energy and sport is the easiest way for them to excel. Horses also represent a return to their tradition.
Group 3: We are preparing a series of weekend workshops focused on discussing the climate and migration crisis, limits of growth, the history of the region or the functioning of democracy.
Group 4: The only way of having an impact on them is a temporary job at our museum, which they’re willing to do. It is an occasion for them to encounter respect and friendly leadership.
Group 5: We’ll support them with personal presence and advice, funding for experts or bigger public debates.

What are the expected results?

We know what we want and can do, but it is just an offer that every human being will make use of individually. Here’s what we will give them (a measurable outcome) and what we believe it will mean to them (expected outcome)
Group 1: a 6-hour meeting 3x/week (120 on each side of the border in total) + 10 joint events = creating a community based on democracy
Group 2: a 3-hour meeting 1x/week (40 in total) = experience of democracy and equality through free leadership; sports club led by a Roma person who has already integrated these values
Group 3: 10 weekend workshops = awareness of possibilities for making a change
Group 4: 10 one-day jobs = experience of responsibility and freedom
Group 5: 10 3-hour meetings and 1 public debate = experience of community planning and civic engagement

How does your idea strengthen active citizenship at a local and community level?

We try to help people who moved to our land both long and not so long ago to take roots here, to connect people from both sides of the border, to educate them in civic responsibility and create “islands of positive deviation”. The best way is to start working with young people at an age when they thirst for knowledge and truth, but also with adults who have manifested the will to influence the world around them. We have given it a lot of thought and have ended up with several target groups, each calling for a specific approach. In some activities, though, they can meet and enrich each other. We will take the “small is beautiful” approach, i.e. several small groups where personal relationships and knowing each other are possible. The impact can then easily spread to other parts of society.

Why is this idea important to you?

I could give you many rational reasons but the fact is that I’m not sure. There is something inside of me that won’t leave me alone and pushes me to defend certain values while offering others to the world, even though I could choose a more comfortable life. Where does this urge come from? Why is it so strong? Why do I sometimes risk misunderstanding or even conflict, if I am so fond of peace and collaboration? Well, some values are simply worth it. In those 30 years, I have learned to bring that peace into conflicts and collaborate with opponents. This is something I can share with others, helping children and young people at the beginning of their path, so that they can reach further. My colleagues also have talents that can enrich the world around us. So, I believe it is worth trying...

€ 50000,-

Total budget

€ 50000,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

Major expenses

Personnel costs (management, mentoring, expert fees,acountancy) = 25800
Travel and accomodation & cathering = 15700
PR = 2000
Studying materials, handbooks, flip-charts, certificates etc. = 2000
Ovearheads = 2500
Other costs = 2000

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

Feedback is always welcomed. Any kind of remarks and tips regarding improving our idea will help us to move forward towards having successful project. It could also inspire us and open new opportunities, we currently do not see.



Idea created on May 27, 2020
Last edit on May 27, 2020

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