Unification News for October 2002

IRFF Culture of Heart in Slovenia

by Larisa Zmaher

Family is the base of social life and relationships. In all cultures and area family and family values are appearing as a focus and even more, as sacred. All important cultures and civilizations have a family as something noble and holy. Family is a place shaping man's personality, a place of receiving and experiencing love, feeling of being wanted and accepted. But the family is also a ground and one of the most important mediators of goals, values and ideals. It is the institution most effectively teaching virtues of loyalty, respect for others, personal responsibility, honesty and self- sacrifice.

One of the purposes of the IRFF pilot project centering on families: "Family and Service, Establishing a Culture of Peace through the Culture of Heart", held from the 23rd to the 31st of August in Slovenia, was to show that this is the age of the family and family should not be an isolated unit or an island to itself, but should participate in the life of the community, think beyond the family's well being and have an active role in the society.

Six families with their children and several volunteers came to serve a small Slovenian town called Sentjur. Few families but large in number and spirit. Families ready to serve and inspire the community to follow their steps in the future. Parents from Italy, Brazil, Austria, UK, Bulgaria, Korea, Hungary and Slovenia brought their children to serve a community they have never heard about before, and their aim was to contribute, to learn, to share and be part of the Culture of Heart in creating the Culture of Peace.

For four days they were together, parents and children, helping to restore a playing ground and surroundings in two local kindergartens, where for few years kindergarten management was trying to call upon the local parents to help them in improving and embellishing their children playing environment. But there was no response; they were in vain waiting for local families to help them. Therefore when local IRFF chapter offered help to the kindergarten principal Mrs. Ketis, she was inspired to welcome families from abroad and other parts of Slovenia.

The one who really responded fast to IRFF Family & Service project were local children. Throughout the whole week they were coming to the site, asking for a brush and paint to help. They did a great a job, inspiring all participants with the energy and readiness to contribute and be part of the project. They are the one showing the example to their own parents and finishing the work started by the IRFF families. There is a great potential in this small community to move in the future and contribute to the well being of each other, as their youngest one got the message of peace and service, coming only through each other effort and sacrifice centered on heart. Children showed that the "Culture of Heart" are not only nice words but are deeds of love, care and sacrifice. They showed that deeds are what count the most.

Throughout the project families had different evening events. Monday evening, the representatives of local kindergarten, principal Mrs. Ketis, her assistant Mrs. Senicar and Mrs. Bezensek (she and her daughter Eda where taking care of IRFF families small children, while parents and older children were working) visited families in pupils dormitory in Celje, where they were staying. They introduced them to the work and aims of the kindergarten and participants could feel closer and more eager in making kindergarten nicer and more kind for local children. Tuesday evening their guest was Slovenian journalist Mrs. Jana Debeljak, speaking about media influence on family. Wednesday afternoon was spent at Slivnica lake, families were having a picnic and concert. Mr. Joseph Rakotorahalahy, a musician and an architect from Madagascar, joined them with his lovely family. He and his older daughter Malala Tina made a great music evening, lightening up the atmosphere and involved them to play on different African instruments.

On Thursday families took time to prepare cultural program for Friday, when they were to meet with elders in a local home. Friday was project's grandparent's day. The message has been sent out that the families are not only parents and children. Family is a place were three generations meet, is a place were a child shares in grandparents love and wisdom and learns the respect and care for elders. Grandparents often end up in old people homes or go there because they can not count on their children love and care. Most of their lives they were taking care of others and at old age when they need little bit in return there is no one to turn to. In order not to be a burden to their families they move out from their homes to the institutions where other people provide a service and a kind of home for them. It was not much, but even for a day we wanted to show to the elders in local old's people home, that they are important and make their day.

Together we set up a rattle operated by the wind in their small vineyard, we danced and sang together. Some we took out to the town on the wheel chairs and our children competed with them in three sport disciplines. The pinnacle of a day was a cultural program prepared by elders and families. We offered songs and heart to each other. The principal of the home Mr. Gorecan and Mr. Kukovic prepared for families and volunteers presents made by attentive and skillful hands of our hosts.

Last day, on Saturday, families were taken to Notranjska where they had short time in nature to reflect upon the project and after horse wag sight seeing, they concluded the project with a lunch and a traditional certificate, stating: We hope that this project brought to your family experiences that will not remain only here but can touch all the families in the world. Pass the bright spirit that we have created together to your neighborhoods, communities and world. A family worth being called "Ambassador of Peace ".

Larisa Zmaher is the Director of IRFF Slovenia

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