Deviszont Community Space for Youths
Knowledge shouldn't be a privilege, but it is in the Hungarian education system. We created the Deviszont Community Space to offer alternative education programs for disadvantaged teenagers. With weekly project activities focusing on civic education, community building and local experiences, we counter the systemic dysfunctions. During these students learn how to form their own opinions, develop critical thinking that are fundamental to being conscious citizens in a democratic society.
The outskirts of Budapest, Hungary, neglected working class area
The 19th district lies on the outskirts of Budapest, lagging behind the centre areas, defined by housing projects, bad quality schools and the lack of community spaces. For vulnerable teenagers, the transition into becoming active citizens can be achieved by providing a space where they can learn and have opinion-forming discussions. This is crucial in cases where their background cannot provide a safe space: they have little opportunity to think about the questions of life when they share a room with their disabled father and don't even receive school schedules, not to mention developing their critical thinking. Our space was created to provide safety and knowledge, so they are able to examine the society around them, and receive the skills with which they may change it for the better.
We are aiming to awaken and strengthen active social participation in our participants; to enhance their solidarity with (and positive attitude for) their own social group and culture and with others; and to discover together the joy and enabling power of cooperation and cooperative action. To facilitate these actions, we have collaborated with NGOs during our projects – e.g. there was a project where our guests have been an NGO whose main activity is delivery of food for homeless people, with whom together we made sweets for the residents of a nearby homeless shelter. Enhancing social participation is hard to do in a society where disinterest in voting and social matters are prevalent – to help this, we design projects where social action can be modelled or “played” (e.g. by board games)
We provide a community for mostly working class and Roma youth. Many of them live in children's homes and have to work alongside school. We build our program on the foundation of the different knowledges, developing a conversation between them and form a community where no questions are off limits: for e.g. why doesn't society talk about death? This gives way to experiences such as a far right teenager and a child who lives in a Roma community cook together or a girl who comes out in the community space, which develops into a conversation about equal rights. If a divisive topic comes up, we develop it into a project, often involving experts. The democratic space has a transformative effect. 30 students visit the space regularly, with our alternative classes we reach 100 students a year.
We organize civic education and community building activities in the community space. Our pedagogy is based on experiential learning, project based education, restorative theory. The monthly projects focus on cultural, social topics, local history and politics, based on the students’ interests. We emphasize voicing opinions, team work and debates, to foster collective thinking, and give back the sense of purpose to acquiring knowledge. We apply more classical methods too, such as career advice, to help students express interests and find their talents. Due to the pandemic, we temporarily hold our sessions online.
Our long term goal is to build a network of alternative educational initiatives, thus we organize experience exchanges and share our methodology with other organizations.
As a result of the monthly thematic projects and community building, the working class and Roma youths acquire civic and labor rights awareness, critical thinking skills, knowledge on current social processes, and learn about the value of active citizenship and working for one’s community.
They will be part of a community where they truly belong, and form friendships with others with very different backgrounds and worldviews, lending them an understanding of diversity and solidarity.
We believe that this is how we raise the future generation’s local community leaders, and work towards uniting and empowering fragmented and impoverished communities.
If our idea is selected we could also double the students who we work with, currently we have 30 regular participants.
Our participants usually come from working class and Roma families. The unequal Hungarian education system has failed them. They don’t believe that their opinions are valuable and they are discouraged to share their thoughts on current events. They are in the age when one’s world view forms, so we build on their natural curiosity but always talk about the relevance of their interests to society. We talk about what is happening in the world, expand the meaning of politics and always search connections to local events. As we experience the rise of authoritarian regimes in Europe, it’s important to restore the faith in democracy and in European values. We emphasize the importance of civic participation, reflect on social injustice and explore the world of fake news.
We believe that education belongs to everyone - but not everyone has access to it. By focusing on working class teenagers, we chose a group which is neglected by our society. We know how these years are determinative in one’s life and how much harm it can cause if one spends it trapped in a system which is designed to let one down. We have experienced the dysfunctions of an unequal education system first-hand and we consider it our mission to give better opportunities to others. Our goal is to give the youth who come to our space the opportunity to understand the world around them, develop their critical thinking and encourage civic participation. We hope to achieve this by creating a community. We hope to change not just their lives but society as a whole.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel cost (pedagogical coordinator, community developer, volunteer coordinator): 25,296 EUR
Rental fee: 1,200 EUR
Travel cost (summer trip): 571 EUR
Materials for projects: 286 EUR
We appreciate all comments and feedback and we are happy to elaborate on our plans. We would love to learn from others’ experiences on building a local community space.