Last week, representatives of the Salvation Army from Norway flew to Slovakia to take part in a conference and workshop in Snina for the project “Snina – a city of equal opportunities for all”, as a project partner with international experience in the field of social inclusion of marginalized groups in society. The interim conference for the project was held on Tuesday, June 8, 2022, in the social hall of the House of Culture in Snin, with the participation of invited guests and the general public from the ranks of citizens and high school students.

After the opening words of the project coordinator Mgr. Katarína Javorská addressed those present in the hall, the mayor of Snina, Ing. Daniela Galandová. In her speech, she highlighted the need for connection and inclusion, which is an invitation for everyone to cooperate in building good interpersonal relations in our society.

The first to present her presentation “The same approach and cooperation is important” PhDr. Zuzana Kotlárová, Phd. from the Roma Center Ternipen, which in cooperation with Budovatelská elementary school, and Radoslav Mitra enriched the beginning of the conference with a performance by children from the elementary school. Radoslav Ďuri, a young volunteer of the Ternipen center and future teacher, performed as a guitar accompaniment. In the second part of the presentation, Ms. Kotlárová impressed the guests with her reflection on the topic of discrimination and inequality in society with an emphasis on equal access to everyone based on individual predispositions and needs.

The conference then continued with the presentation of “Activities that connect”, in which sports instructor Ing. Tomáš Kepič and the instructor of education and personal development Radoslav Mitro presented the activities implemented so far, as well as planned activities with children and youth in the city of Snina. The presentation was enriched with videos from the promotion of challenges and realized leisure activities. Mr. Novák also supported the work of the instructors with his unplanned appearance, who emphasized the importance of working with children and youth through sports and meaningful free time.

After a short break, Mrs. Mgr. Diana Vasiľová from the Hornozemplín Library in Vranov nad Topľou with a presentation of the “Multifunctional Center 4.0” project. The main goal of this project is to increase the chances of at-risk children and youth from socially and economically disadvantaged environments through a network of six centers in the city of Vranou nad Topľou and partner municipalities. They want to achieve this goal mainly by ensuring sufficient access to extracurricular and interest activities that will positively affect their personal development needs.

The conference participants were addressed by Mr. Milan Šefčík from the Salvation Army Slovakia, who in his presentation “Zmena 21” presented not only the activities with marginalized groups, children, youth and adults as part of their project, but also the history, mission and goals of their organization operating in Slovakia.

The project partner Ulič was also a part of the conference, whose activities with the local community were presented by Mgr. Ing Anna Harkotová from Kotva Community Center in the presentation “Each child is unique”. The guests present had the opportunity to see the work of this community center for the local community in Ulica in the form of short video demonstrations. The presentation showed the importance of involving children, youth and adults in joint activities for improving and maintaining good relations in the local community.

The tasty lunch was followed by the second part of the conference, which was opened by a band of students of the Elementary Art School in Snin. With their performance, they not only made the atmosphere of the conference more pleasant, but also showed the talent of local young people. The second part of the conference already belonged to guests from the Salvation Army of Norway, who came to present their organization and its activities in the field of social inclusion with marginalized groups in society to the residents of the city and district of Snina.

In the presentation “Soup, soap, salvation”, Wouter Johannes van Gooswilligen from the Salvation Army Norway highlighted the work done so far on the project and the opportunity to personally get to know the people and the environment in the city and district of Snina. Within the project, as its partner, they want to contribute mainly with their experience and methods in the prevention and solution of poverty.

Among the other pleasant diversions of the conference was a dance folklore performance by children from the Nízkoprah social service for children and families in Snin. At the same time, the children painted a picture during the conference, in which they left their legacy for society and future generations.

After the children’s performance, Kristina Jørstad Bock, consultant of the Salvation Army Norway, introduced herself to the participants of the conference, who in the presentation “Experiences with work for the Salvation Army Norway” presented their organization operating in Norway, which is based on volunteering, non-profit, and improving the quality of life of the most endangered groups population with regard to their individual needs and possibilities.

The end of the conference was the presentation “Street football”, in which Rune Isegran from the Salvation Army Norway shared his experience with street football as an effective tool for the inclusion of the socially excluded. Rune is a national football coach of street football who works with people on the margins of society, often with very severe addictions. Through joint training and participation in tournaments, positive relationships are created, space for self-realization, and at the same time an environment for social counseling.

The following day, Thursday, June 9, as part of the workshop, Norwegian experts visited the local Roma community in the “Kostrubáň” district, where they could see two different sides of Roma life with different lifestyles and living conditions. Subsequently, the steps of the visit from Norway led to the Low Threshold Center for Children and Families in Snin, where the children welcomed them with a nice short performance and a demonstration of the importance of washing hands and teeth. At the same time, experts were introduced to the work and activities of this center for the residents of Snina. Representatives of the Red Cross in Snina also presented their organization and work to the Norwegian partners at the House of Humanity. Other stops included a visit to the Municipal Social Enterprise in Sniny, which presented its activities and products to a foreign visitor.

The end of the workshop took place in the premises of the City Football Club in the area of ​​the football stadium, where the new Open Sport Center building will be located. The meeting was also attended by a successful Paralympian and a native of Snina, Samuel Andrejčík, who is also an ambassador for the disabled in the city of Snina. A nice finishing touch was the joint training with the project partner Salvation Army Norway.

The city of Snina, thanks to a financial contribution from Norwegian grants and the Slovak state budget, launched a bold project in the field of social inclusion last year. Through a grant in the amount of over €900,000, a new Open Sport Centrum building will be built on the grounds of the football stadium in Snina, which will also serve as a grandstand, and inside it will offer a small gym and spaces for community work with children and youth. In the Open Talent Center, the roof will be renovated and an environmental class and a class full of talents will be added. And in the village of Ulič, an indoor and outdoor Enviro and Eco center will be established. In addition to these investment actions, the grant will also cover the preparation of the Strategy and action plan of inclusion for the Snina district, where, in addition to the Roma Association Ternipen, the Salvation Army Norway and their sister organization Salvation Army Slovakia are part of the expert team.