Currently we are putting together our roster and preparing our 10-15 Bloggers/Trainees for our start date in October 2008. Over the past couple of months “Blogging the Dream” was introduced to all members/users within our organization, Fundatia Orizonturi. We have had several express interest and requested to be included in the training. One of the newly active members, a woman in 50’s exclaimed, “Oooh, pick me. I want to be first on the list. I don’t want to miss anything.” We have also spoken with Centrul Scolar, a school for students with special needs, including mental health problems. Once school has commenced (September 15th) a few of the older students at the high school level will be asked to participate. Our hope with these students is not only to give them an outlet, but also to provide them with training and introduce them to potential career paths to which they would not have otherwise been exposed.
While the participants are getting in order, we are also excitedly picking out our new technology equipment. As a result of the grant, we are able to purchase a new computer, web camera and digital camera to use during the training and ultimately for the use of the blogging club. Above all, we are ecstatic to get the internet connection at our Orizonturi Deschise (Open Horizons) club, the organization’s community room. A dream of our own that we have had for a few years. The blogging club will now have a place to meet and do their work, not to mention the Internet access will also be a great benefit for other users not involved with this particular project.
Additionally, we are busily preparing for our two month technical training made up of 8 sessions. Some of the topics being covered in these sessions are self disclosure, privacy, copyright issues/laws, how to handle negative comments/feedback, navigating the Internet, as well as other online networks such as YouTube and Facebook, web and digital camera use. For use during the training, we are developing basic manuals that will include the previously stated topics and step by step blog creation. These manuals will also be used after the training course as tools that the new bloggers can refer to for assistance.
In response to the question we received about whether or not the health professionals working with the users will get a to chance blog, the short answer is no. Our project was developed in hopes to create an environment solely for the users, away from health professionals, so the users are entirely in charge of their blogs, stories and opinions. Often, users can be stifled by professionals and in turn feel limited in their ability to honestly express who they really are as individuals. This is not saying that the support of professionals is not greatly appreciated; we just want to be able to ensure our users that this is “theirs.” A place where they are in charge, perhaps at the time, the only aspect in life where they do have control. However, we will encourage the mental health professionals and anyone else involved in this project to either maintain a blog of their own or to submit their thoughts and experiences to this blog throughout the process.
Through the creation of a Blogging Club, mental health users within Suceava County, Romania will be empowered to demonstrate themselves as individuals. Initially, 10-15 beneficiaries will be trained on how to create a blog and use social networks, enabling them to share their stories, interests and experiences as community members.
There will be a four month training; two months on technology, and a two month practicum period, where users will create their own blogs. Upon completion, participants will partake in the Blogging Club, where one collaborative blog will be created. Continuation of individual blogs will be encouraged but the project focus is to sustain the collaborative blog.
Our goal is to enable users to utilize their talents, as well as develop new skills to demonstrate that they are active and valuable assets to their community. The blog content will promote the reality that people with mental health problems are complex individuals who also have hobbies, dreams and successful lives. Mental health service users within Romania and abroad will be able to communicate, build relationships, establish dialog on advocacy issues and other relevant topics within their community. Furthermore, the blog content will promote a positive image of people with mental health problems and provide more comprehensible information about the mental health field. Creating this opportunity will help break through stigma barriers, prevent future misunderstandings that lead to discrimination, and rectify the present misrepresentation of mental health in the media. News and information provided through the blog will help the community to become informed, as well as aware of its value, power and influence to make change happen.