There is much I could write about this week – the great two day advanced funding training we have held for members or the round table event in Finland looking at the Economy of Wellbeing and what it means for Diaconia or the packed out breakfast meeting we held in the European Parliament on how Diaconia can be a partner for putting social rights at the heart of our societies.
All were really important and really significant events – but perhaps what has touched me most in the past couple of weeks has been my visit to Poland to participate in the celebrations of Diaconia Poland in remembering their institutional establishment 20 years ago. Why was this so significant? Because I was reminded of the struggles and successes Diaconia has had in Central and Eastern Europe.
Under Communism churches were limited if not banned from carrying out any type of diaconal work and so when it was possible to resume, in the early ’90s, much had to be done to rebuild the diaconal organisations and methods that had been suppressed for so long. Much help was received, in full solidarity, from countries such as Germany, partnerships that continue to this day. Yet it was the perseverance of people and communities that built Diaconia in Central and Eastern Europe into trusted, inclusive and quality organisations.
When I visit our members across the region, I see so much light in the way they approach their work – light that fills what they do with hope, with dignity, and with care. Recently one of our team visited our newest members in Romania and he came back with news about their commitment to filling the gaps in social and health care service provision for people with very specific needs that are just not addressed by anyone else.
In Poland recently I was told about their work with ‘Euro-orphans’ – children who are left behind by parents who migrate in search of better-paid work. In the Czech Republic, one of our members is leading the way on innovation in active aging and another is ensuring that people with disabilities get autonomous entry into the workforce so that they can be independent and self-determining. In Latvia supporting families at risk of poverty is central to their work as it is in other countries such as Hungary, Ukraine, and Lithuania. In Slovakia innovative projects are being developed for care for dementia sufferers, in Serbia, housing for Roma as well as self-help groups are booming.
I could go on… There have been challenges – bureaucracy, suspicion of faith-based organisations, lack of investment and financing, finding staff and the understanding of nongovernmental organisations in society. But for all the challenges there have been many more achievements. That is what I am celebrating this week and I am glad that Diaconia is booming in all parts of Europe – because it is this that makes our work in Brussels in the European Parliament or elsewhere meaningful.
Have a good weekend,