Sentinel Study Visit in Hungary
In the morning of 9 May 2019 German, Italian, Polish, Slovenian, and Hungarian partners of the SENTINEL project gathered on the Danube riverbank. We travelled together on increasingly rough roads to visit a farm in the countryside, which turned out to be so much more than a farm!
The Strázsa Tanya Social Cooperative in Szabadszállás employs mentally handicapped people and runs a pension. They host families and groups who wish to spend time in nature, pet farm animals, share a playground with disabled children, and engage in many other fun activities. Handicapped young people, who otherwise live with their families have the opportunity to spend two weeks at Strázsa Tanya and learn the basics of how to live independently. This might be the first step to employment, which shows both the working individual and the other guests of the farm that handicapped people are equal members of society and capable of valuable work.
We were also introduced to the work of three other social enterprises involved in the pilot action in Hungary. One runs summer camps for school groups, in which disabled and blind masters teach the children handicrafts. Another grows and processes herbs and fruit with homeless people, producing unique snacks and tea, while healing mental wounds of the workers with nature, with work and a sense of community. The third enterprise presented teaches restauration skills to disadvantaged young people, who then renew old pieces of furniture, which then find their way to the trendiest hotels and restaurants. After truly inspiring presentations, the visiting partners had a chance to participate in the mentoring process of the pilot action, and use their expertise to brainstorm with the representatives of the social enterprises in order to help them create value propositions. All the participants had something to take away from the workshop.
After a lot of anticipation about how kind the weather would be to us, we ate our lunch, baked in an outdoor oven, partly under a roof and in the fresh, sprinkling rain. The wet, muddy weather didn’t keep us from walking around the premises to see and stroke the farm animals, and to pose with them for a few photos. The following day, yet again we got into our cars and minibuses to travel to Gyulaj, a small, disadvantaged village south of the Lake Balaton. There we had an introduction of the area, the social circumstances, the lack of employment, to find out how the Hetedhét Határ Social Cooperative emerged, giving work to local people and processing the fruit and vegetable grown locally. The Cooperative also has a small meet processing plant, and operates a shop in the village and in the biggest town in the vicinity. After being showed around the kitchens and storage rooms, we were lucky to have lunch prepared from the food produced by the Cooperative and also to buy some of the delicious products to take home. At the end of the visit we walked around the village, lush and green from all the rain, and while climbing up to the church, we were showed the nursery and school operated by the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta. After the compulsory group photo everyone made their way home, and some did not resist the temptation to see the Lake Balaton on their way, as the sun eventually decided to take over.