“It was a week full of inspiration,” Belarusian ecologists assess the excursion in the Czech Republic

31.7.2013 - PRAGUE / BELARUS
Olga Astapovich and Vladimir Stepurko

Work of Arnika does not start and end with the borders of the Czech Republic. A few years ago, we were inspired by our colleagues to the west of our borders who had experience with ecological activities. They came to us to pass on experience the best possible way based on local conditions. Now we have enough of our own experience and we know that toxic substances still complicate lives in many post-Soviet countries. We offered help and people from local ecological organizations accepted it. Last time, Belarusian colleagues learned in our country how to properly take samples from contaminated places and what to pay attention to when citizens inform them about danger of pesticides and other toxic substances.

Darja Chumakova and Olga Astapovich with her colleague Vladimir Stepurk came for experience to us from Belarusian Center for Environmental Solutions. Course on sampling methods of potentially polluted materials (soil and water in particular) or hard-coal mine tour were waiting for them. They had also the opportunity to observe live from town hall tower in Ostrava how choking smog arose. They also visited Eco Centre in Oucmanice, looked at "happy end story" from Klatovy and had a good time with people of Arnika during the campaign Don't play with PVC or when they were finding out how the organization works on the "inside". There was also time for informal sightseeing in Prague or famous Stodolní Street in Ostrava. Arnika helped Belarusians with the analysis of polluted places and with increasing of awareness about toxic substances in the common project.


"I really appreciate that we could look inside the organization and looked what it looks like when you are planning activities which should relieve toys for small children of dangerous substances," Darja Chumakova, specialist in eco-friendly consumerism, says. "It was very helpful for us from Centre for Environmental Solutions that we could see how major Czech non-governmental organization involved different focus groups in its initiative and what results were successfully reached. Thanks also go to our colleagues Vendula and Kamil who helped us with planning of activities for Belarus," Chumakova adds.

"I mainly appreciated not only the tour of the Prague central, but of regional bureaus in particular. Vendula and Jan thoroughly organized the seminars and during the sightseeing answered all our questions," Olga Astapovich, spokesman of the partnership organization, confides. "We are considering creation of similar local bureaus in our organization and the way they work and are included in Arnika is a good inspiration. Workshop on how to properly take samples was also interesting and the tour of the mine was also unforgettable, since in Belarus we would not be let in," Astapovich sums up the strongest experiences.

"For me, the tour of places in Pilsen Region was the most intensive. We visited former store of pesticides in Klatovy-Luby which was finally cleaned after extensive efforts. That is a very inspiring example for us," Vladimir Stepurko who coordinates the common project of Arnika and Centre of Environmental Solutions in Belarus, claims. "Meeting and interviews with local people, but also relaxing tour of western Bohemian castles, was very interesting. I also want to appreciate our common strategic planning, because we introduce some news and ideas in our country at this moment; and methods which we learned in the Czech Republic can help us," Stepurko did not forget to mention.

Meeting with people of Ostrava organization The Air that inspired the Belarusians to create the application about current pollution conditions was also interesting for them. It would be the second application for smart phones that the Centre would create. Some time ago, they started an equivalent of Green Map which is known in the Czech Republic.

"Information which our guests in Arnika received inspired one of the participants to write an article about importance of events about the environment protection for the public. Even peaceful happenings as we organize could be problem in Belarus," Kamil Repeš, chief of Děčín bureau who spent one day with foreign colleagues, confides. "As they said the informal education was inspiring and they will try to aim at new focus groups. The knowledge can be interesting for example for mothers with small children," Repeš ends.

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