It was about 1 p.m. on a summer Saturday when we arrived in Rašovice, a small village in South Moravia about 30 km from Brno. As we drove through the village we didn’t see a single person out on the street. It was in the middle of a tropical heat wave and the thermometer in the car showed 35° C (that’s 95° F). “I bet everyone’s swimming in the nearest lake,” I thought as did Anna, our photographer, who had come along to take photos of the community’s third work party.
We parked the car at the town hall and walked toward the local pub, which stands in front of a park. The gates seemed to separate two worlds: the one outside was quiet, tired from the heat, while the one inside was full of physical labor, laughter and positive energy. Our vision of locals swimming turned out to be a mirage. As we passed through the gate we were almost run over by a tractor carrying paving blocks, while a few men rested in the garden and another group welded and cut iron pipes, women painted old benches and beams for a stage and 10 year old boys painted the floorboards for the stage. And in the midst of them all was the deputy mayor, who was making sure all of the volunteers had enough to eat and drink.
We were greeted with a schnitzel and bread, coffee and delicious cakes – all made by locals. Mayor Jiří Raušer gave us a tour of the site and showed us the architectural design for the emerging park. “Our work parties are working out really well. Today we have a smaller group because of the heat but at the last two work days we had about 40 people and we were able to get a lot of work done,” he told us. “Today we’re building the state and a big tent because next week is our annual festival. There’s a lot of interest in the new park – we’ve already had one wedding here and there will be another one in August.”
After our tour we changed into work clothes so we could help out. “And you came from Prague to check up on us?” asked a man laying paving. “We don’t check up on projects, we visit and we help,” I responded and explained that at Via Foundation we’re most interested in seeing changes – not accounting – from grants.
The mayor put me in the painting work group and I joined the group of boys painting floorboards. They explained the process and I could see it was going like clockwork. “Boys, how long have you been out here today?” I asked. “We came at 8:30 this morning and we’ve been painting all day,” they said in unison. They were excited to be helping.
By 5 p.m. the tent had been set up, the paving was in place, flowers had been planted in a stone wall and the base of the stage had been painted along with benches and half of the floorboards. The work day was slowly coming to an end. Despite pervasive sunburn everyone was full of energy and happy about what they’d accomplished together that day.
We said our farewells but were reluctant to leave. It was a lovely place and will be even more so once the project is finished. It’s a significant project for Rašovice – it’s not just about restoring a park but about restoring and building neighborly relations.
We supported the project in Rašovice through our program The Community in Which We Live. We awarded the group a grant of CZK 300,000 ($12,000) and also provided a consultant to guide them in project planning and community engagement so that locals could work collaboratively to revitalize a public space according to their own needs.
Photos: Anna Šolcová
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