Babushkas, marmelade and other creative community efforts

Thanks to our donors, Via Foundation is able to support hundreds of community projects every year. Although the range of activities in these projects is very diverse, they all have one key element in common: committed citizens who give their time, enthusiasm and hard work to making their communities more vibrant places. Their efforts enhance the local quality of life and promote cohesion and collaboration in towns and villages.

Transforming a village square into a green oasis

In Rájec Jestřebí, a small village near Brno, residents have given the village square a makeover. The space, which used to be empty and rather unsightly, has been transformed into a green oasis with benches, trees, flowers and a playground.

How did it happen? The square remodel was the initiative of new residents who have moved to Rájce Jestřebí in recent years. Most of them commute to the city of Brno and before the project started, they didn’t know each other very well. The village lacked a place where residents could meet or hold events for children, and the pub had closed during the pandemic. It was clear that there was a need to find another way for local people to get to know each other and have fun together. Zdena Ošlejšková and some of her neighbors applied for a Via grant to transform the village square. Residents gradually joined the effort and, as enthusiasm grew so did the number of participants. In all, over 60 people came out to help with the work.

Today, the square in Rájec Jestřebí is a vibrant place, full of people. Elderly residents come here with their grandchildren, young families enjoy the space, and other neighbors join in local events. Thanks to the support of our donors, the square has become a place where new friendships and collaborative efforts are fostered. It’s a beautiful example of what shared vision, perseverance and diligence can do

"Babushkas Welcome"

The Hájovna community Center has been operating since 2015 in one of Prague’s most beautiful parks, located in the hills of Prague 5.  The building and surrounding park were developed by Count Leopold Leonhard Thun von Hohenstein in the mid 1800s as an extensive forested city park. Today both are owned by the City of Prague but managed by the Hájovna association. Association members, led by Markéta Fléglová and Dagmar Šormová, along and neighbors and other volunteers, are gradually trying to improve the property and turn it into a place where local residents can gather.

The Hájovna community Center is open to the public throughout the week. There are workshops, lectures and other events for the public, an outdoor cinema in the summer and a small playground and a community garden. Local residents cultivate a lively community and cultural life here. In addition to all these activities, the association members are also helping integrate Ukrainian refugees into the neighborhood. They had the impression that most of the support available was directed towards mothers and children, leaving out elderly refugees. Yet, for example, women of retirement or pre-retirement age have a very difficult time finding jobs. The association opened a Czech language course for this age group at Hájovna, with the support of Via Foundation. 

We recently had the opportunity to visit a class and meet the participants. They have plenty of drive to learn and determination. Through the supported project, which is called “Babushkas Welcome”, besides learning Czech, they also started making “hejkalas”. They used old burlap sacks to make camouflage suits for Ukrainian soldiers and proudly showed us two thank-you cards they had received from soldiers at the front. During our visit, we were given a hejkala they had prepared specially for us and as a thank you, we also received a beautiful wooden handmade map of Ukraine. The ladies showed us their hometowns on the map. They and we both knew that some of them will not be able to return to their homes. The whole visit was full of poignant moments but we left energized by their positive attitudes and their desire to be useful, create a new community and find friends in a foreign environment. And they are really making great strides in Czech:

“We think that in our harsh and pragmatic world, helping people is very important. It is so valuable that in the terrible days of war in our country you did not stand aside but helped and supported all kinds of people.

Your financial help helped us to start learning the Czech language and to join Czech society. And it also helped us continue producing special camouflage suits for our soldiers. We have met wonderful and attentive people at the community center – Market and Dagmar, who are always ready to help us deal with various questions.  And we have a great teacher, Jan, who works with us in Czech lessons.

We believe that your kindness will be returned in even greater measure. Thank you sincerely.”

Participants of the Babushka Welcome project

Creating new traditions

It all started with one woman who wanted to get to know her neighbors and also do something to rekindle local traditions. Marie Krajplová lives in the Rychleby Mountains and lamented the gradual disappearance of local traditions. As part of the Sudentenland, the Rychleby Mountains experienced a turnover in population after World War II, and when the original inhabitants left, so did their old ways and customs. Marie and her neighbors and friends decided to set about creating new traditions.

At first they gradually learned about various textile processes and studied the history of folk costumes in Javorník. They came upon blueprinting, a block printing technique that has been practiced in the Czech lands since the 16th century. Their plan is to revive the local folk costume tradition and create a scarf, as a simple piece of clothing that can serve as a connecting element for local people.

Marmelade contest

The “Lively” Association in the villages of Svinaří, Lhotka and Halouny is dedicated to making life pleasant for everyone in these three Central Bohemian villages. In collaboration with the municipality, they built a playground on an empty plot of land, which includes a court for ball games, play equipment for children and adults, and a gazebo and a campfire circle. The three villages now have an accessible, well-equipped outdoor space for people of all ages to use and where they can interact.

It was at this playground that a neighborhood gathering was held at the beginning of November to enable local residents to spend time together and get to know each other better. The organizers involved everyone in a funny trivia quiz about the historical and social context of life in the village. They also recognized the award winners of this year’s “best homemade marmalade” contest (always a very popular event), held a concert and gathered around a campfire in the evening.