A family center in the rectory of Rumburk

Late summer 2011 saw weeklong riots and demonstrations in Rumburk and its vicinity which were, primarily, directed against the Roma community living there. The tensions that had grown over the past years between different population groups surfaced in a distressing manner. This was the reason our ECCB parish in Rumburk became a symbol against exclusion and mutual distrust.

At the end of 2011 ideas from two different directions led to the decision to set up a family center in the rectory of Rumburk:

  • A number of young families, from within and outside the parish, wanted their children to have alternative forms of care as well as activities and educational opportunities that focus on good interactions with others and the environment.
  • The Roma association 'Čačipen' was looking for suitable premises for a preschool project for Roma children in order to prepare these children for the school entrance exams. The background to this is that a very high percentage of Roma children are otherwise automatically enrolled in a school for children with learning difficulties. Their way into a future without a "proper" degree and no prospects for an apprenticeship or further education is thus already predestined.

Therefore, spring this year saw the foundation of the 'Family Center Klíček' in the rectory of our parish. The chosen name for it is indicative: the Czech word 'klíček' means both 'little key' and 'shoot / sprout'. A part of the meaning of 'opening, opening oneself for the other and for others' is also expressed in this name. The belief that even the small and insignificant have an inherent power and also that small changes do make sense is also expressed.

Now, after extensive remodeling, the Church hall has a kitchenette and heating and in the old boiler room there is a small office and a restroom. The floor of the entrance hall was also renovated and an anteroom was separated from it. Now we have inviting spaces, for which we are so grateful. We are also grateful for the major financial support for this project from HEKS (Swiss Interchurch Aid), the Women's Support Group of the Gustav-Adolf-Werk, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Saxony, and congregations and individual donors, without whom the conversion would not have been possible.

These rooms have been filled with life amazingly fast. Since mid-April the pre-school group of the Roma association 'Čačipen' has met in the family center for four mornings a week. Currently the group consists of 10-12 children, of which about half belong to the Roma community. It seems to us particularly important for the tense social situation in our region that in this way the two population groups meet each other, have good experiences with each other and gain confidence.

This preschool group is the most recognized aspect of the family center by the public. Additionally the facilities are also used by other groups, such as the association 'CEDR' that offers a theater workshop and a club for photography for socially disadvantaged young people, and obviously also by the parish itself. We hope that it will be easier with the new space to invite unchurched families. With family retreats and individual events such as the 'Night of the Churches' this has already been a success. Now with the beginning of the new school year we want to invite them even more to our existing groups.

Also the garden of the rectory got gradually transformed over the last months. The most striking change is the addition of a little play house made ​​of mud and reeds in August, thanks to a working party of Adobe builders from the Altmark region. But there is still a lot to do with the exterior spaces. Play facilities, seats ... - there are many things that are still missing. There is also some minor interior work we would like to do.

The main focus of our plans is, however, the continuation of the pre-school group, which still depends on short-term public funding. Several models are being discussed. Working towards a Church-owned and state-approved kindergarten is one of them.

Constance Šimonovská