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slovakia: towards a powerful friends of the earth

The Slovakian government is not favorable to the NGO sector in general, so NGOs must work hard for their legitimacy and political independence. This means securing strong public support and stable funding.

slovakia: towards a powerful friends of the earth

Friends of the Earth Slovakia is a coalition of NGOs working for environmental protection, sustainable development and social justice in Slovakia and internationally.

 

In 2008, two of FoE Slovakia’s member groups, FoE CEPA in Central Slovakia and FoE SPZ in Eastern Slovakia, ran programs to build their membership and support base and increase their income, to enable them to develop their campaigning potential.

 

what happened?

FoE CEPA ran a number of activities to inspire and recruit new members. These included educational tours of the Polana region, an area renowned for its rich natural and cultural heritage, but plagued by extreme poverty, particularly among segregated Roma communities. They developed two tours, one focusing on birds and the other on geology, and produced a set of manuals covering all aspects of the tours, including logistics, publicity, and information on the wildlife of the region. Leaflets and posters illustrated with specially commissioned photos were prepared for use with the tours and information stands.

 

Two information boards were made and installed, one close to FoE CEPA’s headquarters in Ponicka Huta, and the other in a park in the capital, Bratislava. Both are popular leisure destinations, so the information boards have a big audience.

 

FoE CEPA also developed its work with schools. They delivered 13 seminars in schools signed up to the Climate Alliance schools’ programme, as well as workshops for over 700 participants. They also installed two interactive ‘Climate Connects Us’ exhibitions, which were supported by high quality information that can be used by teachers and students in the schools. In total, some 2,000 students benefited. In October 2008, FoE CEPA hosted the annual meeting of Climate Alliance schools, attended by representatives of 48 schools and municipalities. Popular highlights included a photography exhibition and presentations by visiting representatives of the Federation of Native Tribes of Rio Negro, Amazonia.

 

FoE CEPA also organised various activities for children and young people from the Roma segregated community living near their headquarters, including training events on environmental issues, skills training, and music and dance workshops. Seven young Roma took part in a course on volunteering along with students from the nearby university.  

 

FoE SPZ ran a project to increase membership. They held a summer eco-camp for members, supporters and the general public, with lively discussions, talks and trips guided by a naturalist, as well as crafts and games.

 

They also hosted a weekend seminar for 15 active supporters, which involved discussions and training, including on public outreach skills and techniques, and a survey of a local community about illegal waste dumping in the area.  

 

They also carried out training in three different locations for volunteers working on street information stalls.

 

They ran various initiatives to increase income, including a direct mail campaign to 8,000 warm contacts, which brought in 168 donations, including from 69 new members. They also wrote to 800 companies, asking them to donate 2% of their income tax to FOE SPZ.

 

what changed?

The projects effectively boosted FoE Slovakia’s profile and strengthened the work of its member groups.

 

FoE CEPA’s schools programme drew a lot of attention from teachers, students and the general public. Interest in their educational tours is also high, and many of those who went on the tours have joined or expressed an interest in staying involved with the organization.

 

The young Roma who took part in the activities organised by FoE CEPA are much better informed than their peers. FoE CEPA has recruited some regular Roma volunteers, and the youngsters are functioning as an informal youth branch of the organization.

 

FoE SPZ has increased the number of activists, members, supporters and major donors, as well as revenues from members and supporters. Their activities, particularly the Ecocamp and campaign actions, received good coverage in print, broadcast and online media.

 

what next?

FoE Slovakia now has increased membership, better financial stability and more political influence, which will bear fruit as it takes its work forward both nationally and internationally. Both the member groups plan to continue the work in 2009.

 

FoE CEPA has planned four more educational tours, along with promotional and supporting materials (leaflets, manuals and posters) for 2009. There is also a plan to follow-up activities on climate and energy issues with the Climate Alliance schools. FoE CEPA is also developing a new program on sustainable regional development, which may become a model for other national groups.

 

FOE SPZ is continuing its fundraising activities, and has hired a new staff member to coordinate fundraising and membership development. Plans for 2009 include the screening of a television advertisement.

 

with thanks to our funders: the sigrid rausing trust

 

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