First week in Hungary: Inmersed in experiences

I didn’t quite know what to expect from Hungary. I did some research on the internet before leaving, but I didn’t know much about this country before arriving. And I felt welcome by my hosting organization, Fekete Sereg.

This first week we just “cut to the chase” and started observing different projects in Nagyvazsony and in other places of Hungary, like Hajduboszormeny, Hajdunanas, Debrecen and Vezprem. After speaking to different people involved with non-formal education in Hungary, I saw the big effort being done by small organizations in order to help children and youngsters getting more support (emotional, social and academic).

But who are these kids in need? Depending on the geographical area, the target population of the projects is different.

In eastern cities or town, projects are mostly directed to kids from gypsy families. From the time when these families were given a home so that they could stop travelling around, their whole lifestyle changed. Even now it’s hard for them to adjust to the typical Hungarian way of living. Children who grow up in these context usually experience poverty and some difficulties in relation to the socio-economical and educational system (and what the system expects from them). To help not only the children, but also their parents, brothers and sisters, is the aim of many educational and social projects.

Other projects support children with learning difficulties at school, children who are being raised by foster parents, or kids who just don’t get enough support at home and end up wandering the streets with their friends as soon as they get some independence.

The projects I could observe were afternoon schools, youth centers and afternoon workshops. While afternoon schools gave academic support on school subjects like math or writing, youth centers and afternoon workshops offered the kids leisure activities to do in their free time.

Youth Centers made a very good impression on me. From the very first moment I noticed that the youngsters were feeling very good just being there. They were surrounded by good company (youth workers and volunteers) who listened to them when they needed to talk. Also, groups of youngsters in the community or other small organizations could use the rooms to make projects or activities on their own. Many of these kids were early school leavers or potential ones, so watching them spend their afternoons in such places made me very happy. I could see that people running the youth centers are very well-intentioned, but the problem is always lack of financial resources to make other high-impact activities.

The workshops focused on drawing, ukulele and rap were absolutely beautiful. You could see kids having a wonderful time doing something different. As facilitators describe, the kids don’t just learn or practice drawing, ukulele or rap. They integrate all their skills (writing, creativity, rhythm, even math) into an activity they do with passion. “Bad students” turn into brilliant and creative artists. Their self-esteem starts going up. They feel they’re good at something. For me, that is one big step towards preventing early-school leaving and other problems.

I finished this first week with a lot of new information. At the end it can be summarized as follows. Kids needs support. They need love. They need to be heard. They need someone to tell them they are valuable. They need to hear “Good job,” “you are good,” “you are talented,” “I’m proud of you”. No matter how “bad” the kid is at school. Maybe the kid is not failing. Maybe the school is… or our society. What can we expect if someone doesn’t find support neither at home nor at school. It’s probably hard to change families or schools from one day to the other, but I honestly congratulate all the people who are there for some of these kids, even for some hours or minutes a day. They remind them that despite all the labels already put on them, they are valuable human beings… with so much potential and love to give.

I had the honor to meet youth workers that were like that during my short stay. I feel thankful.


Maria Elena