Out of Home highlights problems of children’s homes, integration in Czech Republic

Photo: www.mimodomov.cz

Last year saw the first inception of the Out of Home sports & music festival aimed at helping kids from Czech children’s homes. This week the festival returns – a chance for those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get to the Czech capital to not only to compete in sports events at Sparta Prague, but also to see bands like Gipsy.cz or Britain’s Fun-da-mental at Prague’s Štvanice Island. Proceeds will go towards continuing social programmes and activities but also towards a new café which will provide some leaving homes with their first jobs.

Klára Chábová is one the festival’s organisers:

“The Out of Home Festival is once a year and is the tip of the iceberg: throughout the year we travel to children’s homes around the country to try and communicate with young adults and learn about their problems, but the festival is an attempt to do something more for them, to come to Prague to see something they’ll remember: not just a forgotten weekend spent lazing around or watching TV. We want them to enjoy themselves and get away.”

According to Klára Chábová, isolation in many children’s homes remains a problem which needs to consistently be addressed:

“We try and visit places that are further away: we’ve nicknamed some the ‘kids of the forest’ because in the past orphanages were purposely built on the edge of villages or towns, even in old palaces, basically places off the map. Places where it is 50 km to the nearest bigger town and they are really isolated. Now though they invite us and know about our activities and want to be involved and to communicate. Many homes are also far more modern and volunteers work closely with young adults to teach them responsibility, how to handle money, and learning to care for themselves.”

Even so, the turning point when teenagers turned adults are left on their own after 18 is often very precarious: not all grasp quickly enough the seriousness of developments and of life ahead:

“They receive some money upon leaving but it isn’t much – around 20,000 crowns, and there is always the danger they will spend it all too quickly. Often they’ll spend it on brand-name items they could never really own before and are then left with their ‘last twenty’ not knowing what to do next or where to go.”

Often at the core are false expectations, despite support from social workers and organizations or friends:

“Young people naturally want to forget the worst which came before and sometimes they hope, against the odds, that families or parents who abandoned them or have consistently ignored them until now will step in and care for them. It’s very difficult to explain sometimes and a very sensitive issue, but we try to warn them about their expectations, and try to prepare them for the likelihood they will have to rely only on themselves.”

Organisers of the Out of Home festival hope to bring the dangers facing those leaving children’s homes or orphanages to the fore and put together a line-up they were certain would appeal to a broader audience to bring in funds for charity. Musicians who will perform will include the British band Fun-da-mental and the Czech group Gipsy.cz, immensely popular through their mix of hip hop and traditional Roma music. Klára Chábová says enlisting bands like Fun-da-mental and Gipsy.cz was a logical choice, while Gipsy frontman Radek Banga says for him as well as band mates the issue was not only important but also personal:

“First of all, of course because we are Roma and lots of Romany children end up in these institutions, these orphanages and children’s homes. So the issue is very important for us: we really have strong feelings on it. I personally know what it’s like to be ‘out of a home’: I personally spent five years without being able to call any place home, I didn’t have any place to stay. So, for me it’s personal. I like this festival: we first took part last year, and it was very professional and had really good production. Of course it can help but it’s really just a very, very small step. For us to reach the ‘next level’ where the youth can say ‘Wow, somebody really helped me!’ – it’ll need much more.”

He and the band also had to be convinced that the outcome of this project would be different from some others:

“Some charities we took part in before made me doubt such events have a practical effect in the normal world. We saw a lot of situations where we helped and the money just ‘disappeared’. Such things happened quite often so I began to get very skeptical. I decided I’d had enough and that I wouldn’t do anything like this again unless I knew exactly where the money was going. Out of Home is different: I’ve seen the results.

“The priority is always that they are just children without any home. A children’s home is not a real home in any sense: there is no love, no parental love. So, it’s difficult. On the other hand, some things in Czech society are changing from year to year: more and more people are beginning to realize that if you don’t do anything the problem returns like a boomerang. The approach has gotten better but at the end of the day, there are still children’s homes and the problems remain.”

Out of Home’s Klára Chábová agrees:

“Last year one lady, a bureaucrat, told us she wouldn’t lift a finger to help our organization claiming we supported orphanages or children’s homes as institutions. We don’t. I would be most happy if they weren’t needed: if foster parents could always be found or if projects reuniting children with their families were more successful. But these are complex problems, and we can only take a step at a time, one year integration, after a few years, adoption, and so on. We have to chip away at problems and it is a slow process: these are difficult tasks.”

Simona Bagarová works for the civic association Rozmarýna providing professional assistance: money from this year’s Out of Home festival will go towards the organisation’s new café:

“At the moment we need about 3 million crowns for the reconstruction of a venue for a new café, where we will try and employ six or seven young adults per year 9on a rotational basis0 to get a head start. We have friends who are designers and architects who have promised to help with the design which should be slightly retro, but we’ll see.”

As for the concert? It takes place this Saturday at Prague’s Štvanice: you can find information about ticket prices and availability at www.mimodomov.cz. Many, including Gipsy.cz’s Radek Banga are hoping that this year’s installment of Out of Home will be a big success:

“Really exciting. The kids who saw us from children’s homes were dancing and shouting and the place was full of positive energy. Really exciting. ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’”