Raising of awareness for the solidarity with the South on the example of DOBRÁ NOVINA

During the inter-world-war period, Slovakia was one of the most active countries in the field of charity aid for the less developed countries. Regarding the number of missionaries and success of the collections for the missions per capita, Slovakia was on the top in Europe. There were hundreds of missionary organisations and clubs.

In 1948 - 89, the state suppressed and destroyed this type of activities. However, people did not stop their help completely and continued secretly in the developing activities in the underground. Approximately 21 groups sent yearly 6 - 10 thousand packages priced for estimated 10 -14 million SKK to Africa, Asia and Latin America (according to Rocenka Pápezských misijných diel na Slovensku 1993). In the presence there are over 180 Slovak missionaries active abroad, including the less developed countries and ex-USSR.

The velvet revolution in 1989 brought liberty for the inhabitants of Slovakia, what encouraged foundation of various associations of the citizens and performance of miscellaneous activities. Also the originally "illegal" Christian underground organisations registered officially and started working publicly and freely.

eRko, the Movement of Christian Children Communities, registered in 1990 was not indeed a new organisation. Some activists already started to lead children from Christian families in 1973 and since then their number raised to about 50 in late 80s. These young activists decided to form officially a movement  with the goal to help children to become of mature personalities, thus enabling them to contribute to the development of the Church and the society in which they live. Forming of the children is based on the Christian ideals and the utilisation of personal life as the basic substance.

Beginning in small scale, eRko developed to one of the biggest children organisations in Slovakia comprising about 4000 members in numerous parishes. From the very beginning of the official existence of eRko, Katholische Jungschar Osterreichs - an Austrian children organisation helped us as with their know-how and as with financial means. Thus, we could establish an office and start editing a children magazine.

In 1995, following the example of Dreikönigsaktion der KJSO, we were reflecting upon starting a carol singing campaign during Christmas accompanied by a money collection for projects helping children in developing countries. It was not so easy to follow the example of our Austrian friends, because their action has been developing for 40 years, and also the social environment in Slovakia, as a transforming ex-communistic country, was not much open to such a project. There was a lot of uncertainty whether this type of project had a chance, whether it would be accepted by the media and by public in general, and last but not least by our children and group leaders. We wanted to realise DOBRA NOVINA (DN - as we named the planned Christmas activity) within the catholic dioceses and parishes, therefore we visited the president of Bishops Conference of Slovakia Msgr. Rudolf Baláz. He encouraged us in fulfilment of our intentions as well as John Chryzostom cardinal Korec and other bishops did. Hence we decided to carry it out once and then we would see. We announced DN on our broad annual meeting of children group leaders and through our media (at that time we had already two of our own magazines: one for children, the magazine REBRIK issued every month in 12000 copies and LUSK - magazine for group leaders issued in 1000 copies).

In the first year DN run in 104 parishes (of altogether 1300 overall in Slovakia) and the feedback from 2366 participating children and 586 young people was far more than all we expected. The raised money, 27000 ECU, was an extraordinarily significant sum for Slovak conditions and caused great enthusiasm for charity carol singing in following year.

With reference to such a good feedback we decided to continue in organising DOBRA NOVINA in the next years. We decided to let 9% from the raised money for the preparation of the next activity and the rest - 91% we sent to support construction of classrooms in a school, which is situated in a slum of Nairobi. In March 1996 a group of Slovak journalists went to Nairobi and one operator of LUX Communications Video Studio in Slovakia made a film about the project we supported. In August 1996 the head of the in Mukuru Promotion Centre project - Sr. Mary Killeen came to visit Slovakia. These events contributed strongly to the positive feedback to our donors. We also issued a newspaper for children and all people who financially contributed to the young carol singers in the Christmas time.

We started to develop regular co-operation with the DKA, who did for us the project service and helped us a lot from the beginning both in know-how and financial support

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The following year we joined the support of a great three-year project Mukuru Promotion Centre submitted by Sr. Mary Killeen, which is also financed by EU, Austrian government and Dreikoenigsaktion.

In the next two years the number of participating children and young people raised to 5400 in 1996/97 and nearly 8000 in 1997/98. In the last year DN operated in 304 parishes and the sum raised was 4 186 584,30 SKK (100 000 ECU). With these funds, we contributed to the financing of nine projects in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan.

After three years, DN continuously enjoyed increasing interest of media, what can be demonstrated on the fact that all three televisions covering the whole territory of Slovakia reported about DN in their programmes. As well as some of the daily newspapers did.

In this way, DN not only collected some financial means for the South but also helped in the formation of children and raise the awareness of the life in the LDC.

Our children and animators continuously become sensitive to the problems and life conditions of the people in South, what can be seen also on their participation in the Global March against Child Labour this year. They joined this world-wide campaign through collecting of more than 13,000 thumbprints as an expression of their solidarity with the children, who are forced to work because of their poverty.

At the presence we have started another campaign named PEACE for SUDAN. Our children write letters to the President of Sudan and to the leader of SPLA to stop the war in Sudan. Through their letters and drawings they want to remind the recipients the people especially the children in Sudan who are suffering under the war and hunger. We hope that through media also the public will be more aware of the situation and problems in this African country.

What has enabled us to organise this nation-wide activities in Slovakia is: enthusiastic young people, certain structure, children available, own media, experienced partners, lot of time and energy and God's blessing. We are glad we can link the enthusiasm of young people and feeling for others of our children with the missionary tradition of the Church and the role of our organisation as an NGO. We believe that our children and youth become in DOBRA NOVINA one of the forerunners in raising awareness for the solidarity with the South in new conditions of Slovakia nowadays.

Marian Caucik
Peter Balaz
Ladislav Cernansky
ERko - Movement of Christian Children Communities
Spitalska 7, SK-811 08 Bratislava, Slovakia

http://www.erko.sk