Michael Mencl

Michael Mencl and his neighbors fixed up a park in Olomouc-Řepčín

Michael Mencl decided to do something for the Řepčín District of the City of Olomouc, where he served as the Chairman of the District Committee for many years. He and other members of the Our Řepčín civic association, along with many other volunteers, transformed a small Creekside park into a safe, naturalistic haven for butterflies, children and adults.

Via Foundation guided Michael’s team through the entire process, providing a grant, consultant services and training through The Community in Which We Live program. The consultant helped plan and lead community meetings, where residents brainstormed about what type of space they wanted and later gave feedback on designs created by a landscape architect. The community meetings also cleared the air of minor disputes and misconceptions, such as that the association wanted to make money by operating a snack bar on the site. “For a long time, people didn’t believe that we were doing something just for the community without any ulterior motive, or profit in mind,” explains Michael.

Following Via workshops for the team and the community planning meetings, the association held five big community work days plus three small ones for truly dedicated volunteers. The most successful work day was a tree planting which drew more than 50 people, including children. “I have a lot of interesting stories from the entire implementation process. I think I’ll never lose the nickname I got during the work days. When you’re in a wheelchair and people come up to you for advice or to ask whether everything’s okaysooner or later even your closest friends start calling you Mr. Lorenc,” says Michael, referring to the famous scene from the movie In the Wilderness (Na samotě u lesa). The project culminated in a grand opening where a time-lapse documentary film made by university students was shown. Michael and the many other volunteers created a tangible change and developed new friendships in the process.

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