One of the experts at the training on effective communication and successful communication of the NGOs with business, which was held in Minsk on September 4 with support from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was Katsiaryna Kaurova, co-founder of “Nashi Maistry” (“Our Craftsmen”) social enterprise and the Katsiaryna Kaurova Family Centre. The training was organized by ODB Brussels and the German Society for International Education and Cooperation “Koopp Forum International”, with technical and information support from “Human Constanta”, a human rights organization.
For the past fifteen years, Katsiaryna Kaurova has worked in a public association “Healthy Choice”, which she established a long time ago with her university classmates. “Healthy Choice” has consistently been among top five public organizations in the country that have continuously provided high-quality social services to the population. Then, several years ago, Katsiaryna also became a social entrepreneur. She says that she herself grew up in a family troubled by alcohol, and this topic is of particular concern to her.
|Katsiaryna Kaurova, co-founder of “Nashi Maistry” (“Our Craftsmen”) social enterprise and the Katsiaryna Kaurova Family Centre, during the training on 04.09.2017 in Minsk Photo: Tatiana Brazouskaya|
“Our public organization has long been working with children who have gotten into a difficult life situation and are brought up with family members addicted to alcohol. Most children who are in Belarusian orphanages got there because their parents abuse alcohol. In the early stages, we tried to help the children: we went to children’s homes and implemented various social programmes. With time we understood that we would like to launch a more effective children’s support programme, which would help children by assisting their parents with recovery. We took on what I think is the most challenging part of social work».
|Working process in the “Nashi Maistry” (“Our Craftsmen”) Workshop, Smaliavichy, Belarus Photo: official website|
Katsiaryna Kaurova shared her experience with the participants of the seminar, telling them how she came to the conclusion that she needed to start her own business, to see from the inside how business worked in Belarus. “In order to open doors to people who can give you money, it was necessary to understand how their mind worked. That’s why we opened the Katsiaryna Kaurova Family Centre in 2008, after I did an internship in the USA. Finally, in 2016, the social and the commercial parts were combined, and we opened the social enterprise “Nashi Maistry” (“Our Craftsmen”). At the moment, the workshop employs five people who suffer from alcohol addiction but wish to lead a sober life. These are people who had with nothing but faith, people who had in fact attempted suicide because they had lost all hope. In order to be employed at the workshop, you need to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, to work on your soul as well. Despite the difficult economic conditions, workshop employees receive a competitive salary. The salary is piece-rate, so everyone’ salary is proportional to how they worked. So there is an incentive to work well and consistently. Since it was created, the workshop has produced some impressive results: 39 children are being raised by sober parents.”
|Gypsum product samples of the “Nashi Maistry” (“Our Craftsmen”) workshop, Smaliavichy, Belarus Photo: official website|
“Nashi Maistry” (“Our Craftsmen”) workshop makes trendy products by using environmentally friendly materials, natural and organic components. They are the only enterprise in Belarus to make large geometric plaster moulds for artists and sculptors, as well as decorative flower pots, branded piggy banks and candle holders. They also willingly help other social initiatives. For example, craftsmen have made medals for «Angels' Wings" races, pendants for the Support Centre For Autistic Children and the "Istok" rehabilitation centre.
In her emotional speech, Katsiaryna Kaurova drew the participants’ attention to one very important point: in order to stay motivated, you need to have faith in kindness, in joy, in ideas. It is really important to recruit people to your team who will as wholeheartedly and sincerely believe that it helps to change their life for the better as you do. Not my life, but theirs! Everyone needs to to have their own inner motivation, and we will not have to exercise as much control then, because this internal indicator inside everyone’s soul, you just can’t trick it. If such people are working together, they will not break down, they will overcome all the challenges and all the negative feedback.
|Katsiaryna Kaurova, co-founder of “Nashi Maistry” (“Our Craftsmen”) social enterprise and the Katsiaryna Kaurova Family Centre during the training on 04.09.2017 in Minsk Photo: Tatiana Brazouskaya|
On the other hand, even when an enterprise aims to solve social problems, it is primarily a business. It needs to pay the full amount of taxes, so you need to package your product beautifully and correctly to make sure it gets noticed. “You only have one chance, and you need your social project to hit you right in the feelings. Nothing comes to you for no reason. The visible success is just the tip of the iceberg, the rest consists of challenges that you need to overcome and of locked doors which you need to knock loudly and confidently".
At the end of her presentation, Katsiaryna Kaurova distributed motivational postcards produced by “Nashi Maistry” (“Our Craftsmen”) to the seminar’s participants. Each postcard provided participants with an additional incentive to continue working in their chosen direction.
Text by: Valerya Nikalaychyk