Over the past 10 years various Atlantic Bridge activities have taken place in Nurnberg, including an International Youth Festival (2004), the step team Step Across (2005-2006), and artists in schools since 1996.
However, at the end of 2007, after an abrupt ending of the step team, the suppport team in Nurnberg questioned if they should continue. So many of the leadership team have left and the work is carried on the shoulders of people already very busy in other jobs and no longer connected to the youth culture. Yet they decided to give it another try, because of the many good memories of the past and because a good reputation has been built up in Nurnberg. We started a partnership with the local YMCA, initially for two years (2010 and 2011).
In the summer of 2010 a YMCA team of 14 youth and leaders went on a Summer USA discovery trip with good success.
In the coming two years we want to rebuild the mission in Nurnberg by bringing in teams of youth and artists from other countries to mobilise more Bridgebuilders for the BBClubs.
Several activities took place in this region such as a Dutch choir visit.
Atlantic Bridge work in this region started with a short visit from John in 2002 when he was looking for schools who could host Maori artist, Steve Apirana. The success of Steve’s tour opened up possibilities for building bridges in this region. The English departments were very keen to cooperate with us and bring native English speakers to their schools. Especially the Kossuth Gimnazium became our ally, but not until they first confronted us about being a Christian organization and possibly ‘indoctrinating’ their youth with Christianity. When it was clear to them that we were an open group, yet clear about our faith, they welcomed us more and more each year. Teachers Barbara and Timea took several teams of students to the International Youth Festival in the summer of 2003. And from then on a group of youth from this region attended our festival every year.
In the spring of 2006 the Kossuth Gimnazium welcomed a team of 20 Americans from the Marshallton United Methodist church in PA to their school for a whole week. In the summer of 2007 the reciprocal exchange took place when 17 students and teachers from this school travelled to Marshallton PA. Also as a result of this exchange, the friendship with the teachers and administration at this school keeps getting better. As an English-speaking international organization, we have much to offer the schools in this region. English departments of schools in this town and region will be our focus as we increase the bridges in this region in the coming years.
The link with churches in Mosonmagyarovar is our greater challenge. Early on, we discovered that in the Protestant and ‘free’ churches the youth were almost totally absent. And whereas we prefer to partner with various churches, we have been welcomed primarily by a very small Baptist church. The Lutheran and Calvinist church have no young people and no means of finding them, while the Roman Catholic church, from the beginning, has declined the honor of a cooperation. So we have a rather unique situation in this region where young people are enthusiastic, but the churches are not connected to this enthusiasm. We hope this will change in the coming years because we are alos keen on building bridges to the churches.
October 2011. We can measure the efforts in Mosonmagyarovar in two time frames. The time before the tragedy and the time after the tragedy. The tragedy of the summer 2010 where the Bridgebuilders lost two of their friends in a an accident on the Delaware river, impacted this town, this school, this organisation to the core.
A team of Circuit Riders made of of Dennis Ritchie, Nel Ottema and Yvette Boertje were in town in October 2011 and found that the events of the summer did not have a defeating attitude, but almost the opposite.The mission to build bridges continues, the Bridgebuilders club that experienced the tragedy will continue. On the Sunday October 17, the report has come to us that Dennis sang some songs in the Lutheran church with many of the Bridgebuilders present as well as the parents of Szab and Dora. Let's follow the Bridgebuilders of this region on their journey as we follow the KARAVAAN.
Mosonmargyarovar is a town of about 33.000 people in the very north-western part of Hungary in the Movar region. The Danube river floats just very close to this town and influences its geography and life. The next thing you notice in this town are the great number of dentists. So you wonder how it is with the teeth of the Hungarians while actually it is all about Austrians that cross the border looking for cheap teeth service. Mosonmagyarovar may not be the most beautiful town in Hungary, but it has a castle and hot baths for healing your body and it is the closest town to the Dutch border which is 1066 kilometres. There is lots of shopping, also at Tesco, and there is a really cool restaurant on the main road into town with stuff from the Sixties, including an old Cadillac where you can sit and drink your milkshake. And, last but not least, Movar people are wonderful, warm and welcoming.
Jastrzebie Zdroj is a city of 96.000 people in the south of Poland only 100 km west of Krakow, known for its mining. If you want to make money, you work in the mines with all the risks and smells. Most other jobs pay half as much. The average income today in this region is € 300,- per month yet renting an apartment already costs more than half of that. So, as is so often the case in Central Europe, families live together all in one house, including the grandparents, a benefit of life we seem to miss more and more in the west.
A young man named Tomek from the cool (or is it coal) mining town Jastrzebie-Zdroj came to our International Youth Festival in Nitra in 2009. He invited us to come to Poland. The consequent visit to this town and region prompted us to add this region of Poland to our list of priorities to develop an outpost for building ongoing missional youth work. What really sold us on this region were the delicious “frites” his family makes and his mother’s cucumbers. Truly, the best cucumbers of Poland can be found in the little shop next door to their house. We also choose this town because of it being impossible to pronounce the name if you are not Polish. In AB we love a linguistic challenge.
Tomek is the man and we are waiting to see if there are any other Polish daring to join the Bridgebuilders and step out of the comfort zone. Other than Ania, our 2009 EVS-er,that is.
Tomek joined last summer for the Local Impact training weekend for leaders in Kruiningen. This fall he came to the youth leaders training weekend in Liberec, Czech Republic and they hosted a Circuit Riders team in October 2009. Since Nel, Naomi and Freddie have been to Poland as Circuit Riders, the interest in Bridgebuilders has increased and we look forward to their first Bridgebuildes Club starting in the spring of 2010. This summer we expect a group from Jasztrebie Zdroj to come to the International Youth Festival in Hungary.
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 69.000, yet during communism they were not allowed to have steeples.
There is a lot of mining in the Most region. Brown coal created a place for industry, and many people came to Most for work. With the demand for coal decreasing in the past decades, the unemployment figures in Most started rising. Today 21.4 % of the Most workforce is unemployed.
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.
After years of various efforts in the Most region, it seems like we are back to the start but a bit wiser.
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.
In or before the summer of 2012 we are planning a Europe Week in Most with youth from different countries coming to Most to build bridges. Last but not least, we hope to be able to be a supporting arm for the few churches in the region, helping them with their work among young people.
A Bridgebuilders club went to the USA in the summer of 2009 led by Blahos Fajmon and Nina Kopecku. Further plans are decided on in September when the RST meet to discuss a new two year plan for building the region in Liberec.
Our first contact with Liberec was a visit to the Baptist church in 1997 upon the advice of a pastor in Louny. The group of young adults in the church were ready for a new adventure and it they proved to be up to the challenge. One of them, Bohunka Tominova, even came to work with Atlantic Bridge for two years as office manager.
Now, 12 years later, the Baptist church in Liberec is still a beacon for Atlantic Bridge in the region. Often we use their facilities for training and we always have a home base and a place to stay when passing through. It’s been a good partnership even though very little has ever been formalized.
Two International Youth Festivals took place in Liberec (1999 and 2001) and these were some of the best. Frequent leadership training events also have taken place in Liberec. Last year’s Start weekend for Czech Bridgebuilders was hosted in Liberec and we were able to have almost 30 youth staying in the church facilities for the weekend. We look forward to a continuing partnership with the folks from the Baptist church in Liberec. They have become good friends!
Reichenbach is the German name for Liberec. A city of 97000 inhabitants. Since WWII is has been a centre of the conflict between Germans and Czechs. Germans were ousted from this region after the war and their homes taken over by Czechs. Liberec is one of the nicer and wealthier towns of the Czech Republic and in an area favourite for skiing. Last year the Ski-jump championships were held at Mount Jested, just outside of Liberec.
The work of Atlantic Bridge in Jicin started with Bohunka Smolikova who, with her two children, came to our International Youth Festival in Nitra (SK) in 2005. During the festival they became enthusiastic and inspired to build an 'outpost' for the mission of Bridgebuilders in their town. Bohunka, who taught English in a grammar school, was able to interest her school in an exchange project, hosting a group from The Netherlands. And so it started.
In April 2006, a First Contact Team from Tholen (NLD) came to Jicin to ‘survey the land’ and lay the basis for a partnership bridge between Jicin and Tholen (NL) to start exchanges. During the fall of 2006 and spring of 2007, various visits and exchanges took place with the result of nine students travelling to Tholen in June 2007. Two weeks later the Czech students hosted a team of young people. They were not only from Tholen but also from the new American partner region of Jicin, the North Penn or Lansdale PA region. In the fall of 2007, the Protestant Evangelic church in Jicin also joined this partnership, offering us the use of their building as a youth training and resource centre if we can help them renovate it. As we saw the near empty church void of youth, as most Czech churches are, an idea emerged to draw youth from many nations and denominations to Jicin to help reconstruct and rebuild this one church as a model and a challenge to recover what was lost in previous generations. So the idea has grown into a caravan; the Caravan to North Bohemia.
The key people in the region are Milada Fohlerova and Kamila. In 2008 Bohunka moved on to develop a new region, the Cernilov-Hradec region, 45 minutes east of Jicin. Milada and Tereza have been instrumental in finding other families and friends while Kamila has a gift of putting the finances and organisational structure together.
During the Start weekend for new Bridgebuilders clubs in Liberec in December 2008, a new Bridgebuilders Club was started in Jicin made up of previous Bridgebuilders with commitment s of several new members. Their first experience as a team in building bridges was a 3-week adventure in the USA where they travelled to 5 different locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York with the Christ United Methodist Church in Lansdale PA as their core hosting group. With the return of the Bridgebuilders from the USA we are discussing the next step: to bring Circuit Riders to the region in October and start one or two new Bridgebuilders Clubs while strengthening the Regional Support Team.
Waiting for the caravan.
As the Caravan to North Bohemia gets on its way, the expectations of what this Caravan will lead to offer a variety of comments. But one thing is certain. It all ends in Jicin in the year 2012. As we bring young people, leaders and Circuit Riders from different countries to the Jicin region, we hope to build a broad foundation involving churches, the city hall and other youth organizations. It all depends on the number of young people and leaders we can mobilize in the coming years. The key to this will be the increase of partner regions in other countries such as Tholen (NLD) and Lansdale, PA (USA). In these regions we need more churches, schools, teachers and businesses to get involved.
One Bridgebuilders Club started in December 2009. Their outward journey was to the USA in summer 2009.
We started our Bridgebuilder Club in September 2010. We are a BBC of about 11 people meeting regularly every other Friday, sometimes more often.
We decided to start the club after 5 of us experienced Europe Week which took place in Kruiningen (July 2010). We came back very enthusiastic and invited our friends to become part of BBC. First we had a "Dutch evening“ where we had a projection of our pictures from Kruiningen and we shared our experiences both with our families and friends. Most of the BBC members are students of Gymnazium in Tachov.
This Christmas we organized a „Live Nativity Scene“ which took place in St. Wenceslaw Church in Tachov. We meet at the Hussite Meeting Center in Tachov under the protection of Czechoslowak Hussite Church parish. Tachov is quite a small town in the west part of the Czech Republic just 10 kms far from German borders. It belongs to the region of Pilsen.
The area around Tachov is full of interesting places, wonderful nature and beautiful towns such as Mariánské Lázně. There is lots of things to do and explore for both history lovers and nature lovers.
Murska Sobota, SLO
For most Slovenians the region around Murska Sobota is not the most popular region in this country, especially if you have beautiful coalstal line on the Adriatic, ski slopes and historic cities like Ljubliana. The open friendliness of the people of Murska Sobota makes up for the possible lack of geographic beauty. Murska Sobota is a central town for a region where farming is central. Indeed they farm well in this region and are keen to experiment with new methods. Yet there are also some very surprising places of great beauty in the region but you’ll have to come here to find out where they are, or maybe Google can help.
Since a few years activities started in this rural town in Slovenia.
A visit by director John produced names and addresses of two schools. The first to come to the Slovenian schools were Circuit Riders Freddi Kofi from Nottingham UK and AB interns Sam Porteus and Adam Gallo. Their two day visit built further inroads and a group of ten youth interested in further contact.
Next was a First Contact team of four boys from Houten in the summer of 2006 which resulted in the first Slovenian to join an International Youth Festival, Alen Serec.
BB One took place in summer of 2007.
American team led by Dave Kurtz in spring of 2008
First Bridgebuilders Club started in 2008 joined the IYF in Nitra.
Leon Novak, Goran Milosevic, Erna Voros and Bridgebuilder Nastja are presently the key people for building the work of Atlantic Bridge in this town.
A one week activity to rekindle the fire and build on to the foundation of contacts took place from July 25-August 2 2009 with a team of youth leaders and young people from the USA (Jackson Hole WY) and The Netherlands (Tholen) Nel Ottema and Trent Moore led the group of about twenty in building bridges in Murska Sobota.
a) two day mission to schools with Circuit Riders from October 10-17, 2009.
b) Bridgebuilders Startweekend December 12-14 in Sombathey Hungary