Aksana Bernatskaya, a graduate of our Biz4all-2 social entrepreneurship school, is working tirelessly together with her colleagues to shape up the local community and create an inclusive, welcoming space for everyone. “EcoZhizn” (“EcoLife”) leisure centre for adults and children has grown to include a mini kindergarten, a theatre studio and an inclusive workshop, as well as many other activities held all year round.
Biz4all "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator” programme is organized by ODB Brussels (Belgium) in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands) with financial support from the European Union.
Private leisure centre “EcoZhizn” has worked in Barauliany for more than three years now. Initially Aksana set up a computer literacy course for children, but she realized even back then that she was going to turn it into something more. Today, the cosy space in a multi-storey apartment building in Barauliany is a meeting spot for many caring locals. People come here to take part in free and fee-based events, sometimes bringing their whole families with them. “EcoZhizn” brings together locals who lead an active lifestyle, organizing interesting and useful events, helping people grow and learn.
Volha Karatay and Aksana Bernatskaya, members of the “EcoZhizn” team at the final Biz4all event in Minsk (2018). Photo by: Vitaly Brazousky
“Our theatre studio “Theatre + TV” is a very good example in this regard. Last autumn we brought together a group of children and rehearsed a New Year’s show with them. And it so happened that by January their parents had joined the fun”. Now the theatre studio also includes TV-related activities. Aksana is planning to set up a separate course to teach children and teenagers to produce TV reports. Last year “EcoZhizn” organized vocational guidance courses for teenagers and is going to do the same this year, as there is a lot of demand. In addition to paid events, the centre also holds free master classes and runs a creative workshop — this is another important aspect of Aksana’s social business.
Social entrepreneurship mini incubator in Barauliany
Oksana always has a lot of ideas and is strongly motivated to help others. So now, after taking part in an educational programme in Germany, the entrepreneur has joined forces with her partners to develop a mini incubator of social entrepreneurship for people from rural areas. “We are going to select projects and participants very carefully and train them very intensely. A unique aspect, which is only just developing in Belarus but, as world practice shows, is crucial for success, is that our participants will have access to mentor support for whole six months after the educational programme comes to an end”.
The project mainly targets women from regions who have difficulty finding a job. These include primarily women on maternity leave, mothers of large families and mothers of children with disabilities. However, if men send us really strong applications, we will be more than happy to see them in our incubator.
Inclusive creative workshop: learning a useful craft
The social entrepreneurship mini-incubator project, which will partly take place at the “EcoLife” centre, is in many ways a follow-up to the creative workshop, which was the idea that Aksana and her team originally brought to the Biz4all social entrepreneurship school. Women on maternity leave and mothers of children with disabilities got together once a week. While the teachers were engaging with the children, the mothers learned some useful crafts. So they didn’t just take part in a one-off master class, they actually developed a skill that could later be monetized and thus allow them to receive additional income.
“We are really happy that another partner has recently joined our workshop: “ Belarusian Association for Assistance to Children and Young People with Disabilities” (“BelAPDIiMI”), a well-established local NGO. Thanks to that partnership, our workshop now gathers more participants. Some even travel from Gatovo and other towns which are not even that close to Barauliany. This means that the workshop does something really useful! We have organized learning sessions with a cosmetologist, or helped participants learn to sew bed linen. All these are valuable life skills. For example, they can now actually make bespoke bed linen and thus increase their income”.
Plus, the welcoming inclusive space is great for barrier-free communication, socialization, and making new friends. Our creative workshop is jointly run by Minsk District Primary Organization of “BelAPDIiMI” and “Leisure Centre for Adults and Children “EcoLife” within the framework of “Art for inclusion of people with disabilities” (extension: promoting interests of people with disabilities), which is sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with information support from Barauliany. "The main idea of our workshop is to ensure wide inclusion of children and adults, help them support one another, and find a way out of social exclusion. It is about interaction through creativity and about people with and without disabilities doing something together".
In addition to all the free projects, “EcoLife” regularly organizes fee-based classes and runs a mini-kindergarten, creative workshops and educational courses for adults and children, as well as going to open a summer day camp for schoolchildren soon. All these activities allow the leisure center to be sustainable.
Volha Karatai, another graduate of Aksana Bernatskaya’s Biz4all team from Barauliany, has also started her own social business very recently. You can read about her initiative on our website here: A Game Space in Barauliany: Building Bridges Between Generations Using Board Games.
Text by: Valeriya Nikalaichyk
Photo: public online sources
|The goal of the programme is to develop a package of social entrepreneurship training programmes in Russian using innovative international practices, as well as the experience of Belarusian diaspora representatives who have become successful entrepreneurs in European Union countries and the USA.|
The material was prepared within the framework of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator", implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands), Belarusian Youth Public Union "New Faces" and International Civil Association "Union of Belarusian of the world “Motherland", with support from the European Union.