Association „Balta maja”
31 August 2015
In August the association “Balta maja” workers andactivists go on a trip to exchange experience in Estonia
The project’s “Support for Association’s “Balta maja” Work in Strengthening Participatory Democracy in Latgale Region” (project’s contract No.: 2012.EEZ/DAP/MAC/152) implementation continues. The project was undertaken in 2013 and will continue till the end of the year 2015.The project’s implementation provides regular support to the association and strengthens the knowledge of its staff. The project is supported by the European Economic area financial mechanism 2009- 2014 period program’s “NGO fond” sub-programme “Programme of Support for the Activities of Non-governmental Organisations”.
On 25th and 26th August there was successfully implemented a trip to exchange experience in Tallinn and Haapsalu (Estonia). Genadij Vihman, who is a longtime friend of the association “Balta maja”, the former association Haabersti Sotsiaalkeskus Eakate Päevakeskus Koduhooldustalitus (Harbesti Social Centre for the Elderly) director in Tallin, performed the role of a professional guide, hospitable and knowledgeable attendant had chosen an informative route to get to know Estonia’s most successful associations, history and culture. He had planned everything for our visit. It included a number of meetings with the associationrepresentatives whoshared their experiencesaboutthe daily work ofthe organization, its structure, sources of financingand course of action. Our delegation intensively visited associations in Tallinn and Haapsalu for the duration of two days. We were surprised and delightedbythe diversity, activities andlove towards their land expressed in words and deeds.
The association activists immediately after arrival visited Vanurite Eneseabi–ja Noustamiskeskus (Self-help and Counseling Center for the Elderly). The motto of this association is “Old ageis a joy!” andnot vice versa! Indeed, the main idea and the guiding thought of the association are self-serviceandself-development. It gives visitors wide, bright rooms (house was built in 1902); it has been restored maintaining the romantic notes of that time. In order to strengthen the association’s financial situation it has small guest houses which are served bythe associationstaff. The association is characterized bya broadsphere of services. They offer the consulting and services of medical professionals – psychologists, psychotherapists, masseurs, lawyers and social workers; the new gardeners are trained by experienced gardeners who work creatively. There is also a women’s choir; local artist concerts, poetry evenings, exhibitions which are organised on a regular basis. They have a spacious library, cafeteria, workshops, sports activities circles and dance classes. The association consists of approximately 400 members. It does not let the members to grieve for the gray years; on the contrary, it encourages people to keep their body and mind active and happy! The association “Balta maja” members acknowledged that this meeting gave several initiatives and ideas for the future, which could be introduced in their own home!
Then the route led Latvians to the Estonian association Haabersti Sotsiaalkeskus Eakate Päevakeskus Koduhooldustalitus (Haabersti SocialCentre forthe Elderly in Tallinn, where our guide Gennady truly felt himself like at home since he had spent here many years as the director of the association. Currentlythe socialcentre is led bya determinedandactiveNataljaGrusdamwhosefirst successfulprojects were related to the renovation andimprovement of the building with the aim to expand the range of services available to the target audience. Especially talented in this association are the artisans who are making national costumes. The association offers a wide range of activities, and it is a sociallyactive, creative and growing. The associationhas10groups of interests, which brings together those who are interested in music, law, health, the arts, travel, hiking, organization of meaningful leisure activities for children and the monitoring and organization of different thematic events. The association also offers a number ofsocial services such as helping the needy; in cooperation with supermarket chains they are running a clothing exchange office. In the same premises the delegation fromLivani met with several otherassociationrepresentatives, one of them was representing pensioners’ association Raavis. Thehead ofthe association told that the emphasis is put mainly on social activities promoting the participation – both in terms of health maintenance – gymnastics, hiking, travelling, activities in fresh air, art therapy, yoga and other classes.The association is also is the originator of various actions intended for protecting the interests of seniors. Together with other seniors’ associations it successfully meets the stated goals. The association is especially committed to the maintenance of father-husband clubs and classes where men come to play bridge, chess, and board games. There you can also meet the lovely ladies who are helping and dancing with joy and enthusiasm like in their youth. Also, the rest of the representatives of the associationskindly and hospitably welcomed the guests, talking about their association and exploring the experience of our association.
Next, we visited Haapsalu, where we went to Kultuurikeskus Haapsalu (Haapsalu Culture Centre), which has become a home for several associations. Haapsalu deputy mayor Peter Vikmanis addressed our delegation and told about the history of city and the Cultural Centre. He revealed that the buildinghas been recentlyrenovated, now there is a widelibrary, exhibition halls; recently a modern and new cinema has opened its doors to visitors. The city gives to its inhabitants and visitors annual concerts “White lady” that take place in the picturesque fortress territory of the town. Also in Haapsalu people can visit lace museum where the works of the most skilled knitters from all over Estonia can be found. Peter talked about the association and local artistic collective financing conditions that are different from our existing national funding rules. There are several non-governmental organizations that are primarily focused on the maintenance of cultural life – choirs, orchestras, as well as a number of other social, artistic, sporting activities which are supported by the council that allocates about 70 000 EUR per year. The representatives and activists of the invited associations also told about their associations in detail.
Estonia inspires! Associations inspire others by their relentless and meaningful work, boldnessof colour and courage, peoplewith their peace, joyandsporting activitiesin the streets, the sky with the nationalflagsflutteringat theEstonianhouses. Estonians proudly talk about their history, the present days, people and events. We were also inspired by the fact that Estonians are proud of their neighbours Latvians.
The Estonian man whom we met in Haapsalu Culture Centre delighted everyone as he spoke Latvian. When he was asked how he had managed it, he gladly replied “But we are the neighbours!”. Let the friendship of neighbours strengthens, cognition and experience enriches; let a true pride about our land be born in us!
The program is funded by the EEZ Grants and Latvian State
Supported by a grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway
This publication has been prepared by the EEA Financial Mechanism and Latvian State financial support. For the content of this publication responsible is association „Balta maja”.