The Orizonturi Foundation’s “Blogging the Dream” project has completed its practicum period and continues to develop and expand its Blogging Club.
The project, which is funded by a Rising Voices micro grant, was launched last summer by the Orizonturi Foundation (The Horizons Foundation in English). The organization, based in Câmpulung Moldovenesc, Romania, has been helping people with mental health issues for almost 15 years. The project's Blogging Club is made up of some of the mental health service users involved with the organization.
The current Blogging Club members have already been trained through the project in how to blog, use digital cameras and upload pictures. They also went though a practicum period where they got to practice using their newfound skills. Many project members have started their own blogs. The eventual goal of the Blogging the Dream project is to develop one collaborative blog, in the hopes that it will help decrease the stigma that people with mental health issues face in Romania.
The Blogging Club members took a two-week break from their blogging activities last month for Easter vacation. During this time they prepared for the holiday, which is important to the Orthodox community in Romania, says project leader Gabriela Tanasan. This photo shows “the basket with bread and food that we take to church on Sunday morning to be blessed. Then we eat what is in the basket. It's one of our customs on Easter,” she says.
Tanasan adds that the two-week break isn't the only thing that has slowed the project down a bit, though — there have been other challenges in developing the collaborative blog. She points to two challenges in particular:
1. The unsteadiness/fickleness of people with mental health problems either because of their health problems or because of the wrong influence from their relatives/family. It is still about prejudices, stigma, the shame of being different.
2. The small number of computers — we have four computers. Only one of them is a new one (that one we bought with the Rising Voices grant) and other three old computers don’t allow us to install all the programs we need to blog…that's why each participant has to wait for another one to finish his/her work on the best computer.
Tanasan is using new strategies to boost the number of Blogging Club members though. The Blogging the Dream project has invited members of the Orizonturi Foundation's literary group to help them promote their art to a wider audience. The organization has also started a new project this month, which Tanasan hopes will attract more people to get involved. Called “Traveling Beyond Barriers,” the program is an initiative to increase the social integration of mental health service users. Each month, the group will plan a one-day excursion with a particular educational focus, such as geography, arts or ecology. The participants will have to record their experiences through pictures, videos, drawings or writing and then post these observations on their blogs.
Despite the challenges that Tanasan and the other Blogging the Dream members are facing, many are praising their great work. For example, Mara, the organization's former Peace Corps volunteer who was involved with their magazine, “A FI – TO BE,”, had this to say about the organization:
My time in Romania gives me hope regarding the state of mental health advocacy in the world. The Horizons Foundation recognizes that the best changes in policy start locally and at the level that matters most: mental health users and their families. The long CV of projects of Horizons testifies to the fact that the Foundation is making a world impact at the local level every day.