EVS PROJECT MOST

Czech Republic, Most

Location

Czech Republic, Most

Regional coordinator

Lenka Fritschova

Brigdebulders club status

Active

History

Previous History
Since 1996 Atlantic Bridge has organised activities in Most. Various Circuit Riders (artists and teams) have been in different schools in the Most region. The first music group to go to schools in Most was the British band ‘Double Check’. Other circuit riding artists were Geert Doldersum (Netherlands), Steve Apirana (Australia) and Freddie Kofi (Ghana). exchange. In 1997 the International Youth Festival in the Czech Republic took place in the nearby town of Louny. In 1998 a group of 40 students from Most went to The Netherlands for a two week long exchange project. In 2001 the first Marco Polo Team made up of Jeroen, Joachim (Netherlands), Todd and Beth (USA) researched the region to discover the youth culture. They found that young people were disillusioned about their city and depressed about their possibilities. They also found that this city had the highest unemployment rate in the country, at that time 24%. Since then, Atlantic Bridge has been anxious to increase the presence of staff and interns in this region to build an ongoing youth work.
In 2005 we started with internships and with two enthusiastic English interns, Phil and Simeon, under the supervision of two part-time staff, Lenka and Marketa. They established contact with the four small churches in town and built up a presence in the schools. The highlight of that year was a concert in the Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary with the Angels of Harmony, a black gospel choir from Philadelphia (USA) with the mayor and city notables in the front row. Phill and a new intern, Tamas from Hungary, continued the work in 2006. In 2007 Sam Porteus, intern from Connecticut (USA), continued to build contacts in the various schools in the region, and in 2008 Kendra Hoover, youth leader from Portland OR took over from Sam and increased the impact especially in the town of Zatec through the Obchodni (business) Academy. A Bridgebuilders Club from that school started after the visit of an American youth group from Portland OR in the summer of 2008. They visited the USA in the summer of 2009 . This trip also ended Kendra’s mission to Most experience.
People: Much of the credit for building the work in Most in its early stages goes to two people: Lenka Cerna (now Fritschova) and Marketa Cermakova. As a team they worked together for several years working with interns from other countries.
In August of 2011 our International Youth Festival took place in Litvinov from August 8-14. Litvinov is a town of about 30.000 people just a few kilometres north of Most. In September 2011 two American English teachers started working in different schools in the region. They will live in Most and teach in schools in Zatec, Litvinov and Most. In October 2011 and in the spring of 2012 we expect to be in several schools in the region with Circuit Riders. The City Council of Most has agreed to support the mission of Atlantic Bridge and to be our 'umbrella' . This means we have their stamp of approval in the communication to parents, school teachers and directors, and other organisations. We hope to be able to start with one or two Bridgebuilders clubs in Most region at the end of 2011.
But changes in the governmetn and lack of staff and volunteers killed that initiative.

Geography

The word "Most" means “bridge” in English. It is an inspiring place for an organisation that wants to build bridges. However, there are quite a few different sides or viewpoints about Most. The report of our KARAVAAN journalist, Klara, will shed some light on this.

The word 'Most' means 'bridge' in English. It is an inspiring place for an organisation that wants to build bridges. However, it is not the prettiest part of the country and often people ask why we would choose to be in Most when there are so many other places.

What they refer to are the deep crevasses on the north where the communists did strip mining yet where the pre-communist beauty of the land is starting to reappear again. It is actually a beautiful region with volcanic pimples and beautiful hilly paths and landmarks. Interesting fact is that Most only has one church with a steeple. Can you find any other city in Europe with one steeple? But there are still four small churches in this city of 66.000, yet during communism they were not allowed to have steeples.

Most is a city in North Bohemia with just over 66.000 inhabitants. Strip coal mining and a quicksand disaster in the 19th century decimated this city and resulted in the highest unemployment rate in the Czech Republic – 25% (as of 2005). Even the Gothic Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary (now a museum) was moved outside the city as a result of the mining. (This move was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the heaviest building ever moved on wheels.) But thanks to heavy social and European Union funding Most has begun to recover. It has become the heart of the Bohemian mining district and local business and industry are being developed.

The demolition of the old town and rebuilding of a new city center has helped change the face of the city. But it is still a place with high unemployment, limited possibilities for young people and only four small churches (with a combined attendance of just over 200). For Atlantic Bridge, the Most region includes the towns of Most, Litvinov, Zatec, Louny and Postoloprty.

People

MOST: THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY

It’s interesting that the name of the town means bridge. I didn’t see a single bridge while staying there, but the town was surrounded by swamps in the past so the name must have made sense at some point of its history.

Most seems to be one of the most notorious of all the Czech towns. It has the highest unemployment rate in the whole country, there are few jobs, not many opportunities for young people, omnipresent poverty and despair which lead to crime, and the shocking number of some 2000 homeless people (Most has population of some 66,000) just to name a few.

Our host pastor Marian knows about it better than anyone because he’s been working with people affected by poverty for years now. First he worked at the homeless shelter, and by the way, there are only 20 beds at the shelter; not even close to cater for the town’s needs. He told us about all the things that have been stolen from him; thieves climbing into his house through the windows, his car stolen… So, after hearing Marian’s story you could easily conclude that Most is a place you should avoid if possible.

However, there are people in Most who offer a different perspective. One of them is my host, a 28-year-old girl called Mirka who works for the city’s tourism office. Ten year ago she was part of a Bridgebuilders Club in Most. She thinks Most is a beautiful town that has many interesting things to offer. Whenever she talks to people from other parts of the country and tells them she lives in Most, they usually feel sorry for her. She doesn’t like her town’s reputation and tries her best to change it. After people visit Most for whatever reason, they’re usually positively surprised and lose their prejudice towards the town and people. At least that’s what Mirka told me.

There’s also a third Most citizen I met, Andy. Andy was part of the same Bridgebuilders club with Mirka and was also an EVS-er (European Volunteer) with Atlantic Bridge for a year. She is very young and one of the lucky people who have a job. Just like Mirka, she loves her town and wouldn’t change it for any other in the Czech Republic. But, she knows very well that Most has a lot of issues that aren’t being dealt with and that it would take a lot of time to fix them. She described the town as a dumping site for unemployed people from other parts of the country because when someone from any other city loses their job and can no longer afford to pay the rent, they just move to Most because the rent is cheaper here.

My experience of Most is very positive; the few people I met are really nice, the town is famous for a church that has been completely relocated and for a beautiful castle on the hill above the town. That’s even without the beautiful landscape that surrounds the town, the magnificent forests and hills.

So the bridge that is of interest to Atlantic Bridge is the bridge between young people and the church. How deep are the crevasses created by communism, how deep are the prejudices towards the Christian faith? Is there a way to build a new bridge of faith to this seemingly faithless region? There are two other bridges we can focus on in this town. First there is the bridge between rich and poor. Many people in this region are poor and barely able to survive. The level of unemployment is very high and so there are consequent problems with prostitution and drugs. Second there is also the bridge between different ethnic groups. In Most and the surrounding towns there are quite serious difficulties with people from the Roma or Gypsie culture. Can we also help to build bridges of friendship, faith and understanding related to these problems?

Present situation

After years of various efforts in the Most region, the momentum is gaining and we expect to start again in 2018.
Now, 2017, we are regaining momentum and are planning a Europe Week multi-lateral exchange project with at least four other countries coming to Most. In September 2017 we applied for Accreditation for starting EVS in the region. This is only possible because of the partnership with the Diakonie in Most. And so, as this is written, we are expecting accreditation to be able to host EVS interns again starting in 2018.