It's been a slow process but we have finally started our common blog Blogging The Dream. The final destination is yet to be determined but through the input of participants and other member of Horizons Foundation the blog is gradually taking shape. We are taking into consideration the following topic headings as our project originally proposed:
News: Mental health NGO projects and activities, important events within mental health community, articles published in the mass media misrepresenting groups at risk, models of good practice
Stories:Personal life stories/experiences, difficulties in keeping a job, attitudes within the community, hobbies, interests, artistic outlets, hopes, dreams
Information: Rights, legislation, NGO’s and networks, professional associations, state institutions in charge of at-risk group issues, publications of interest, advocacy efforts, Horizons Foundation updates and activities, community involvement opportunities
However, topics will not be limited to these. Any content that will promote the reality that people with mental health problems are complex individuals who also have hobbies, dreams and successful lives will be included. Ideally, 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. 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.
We are always open to new ideas and suggestions, so please share yours! In the meantime, you can check out the slow development of our common blog at http://fundatiaorizonturi.blogspot.com/
“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.” Mara Miller, former PCV for Orizonturi Foundation
Bucuria vine din lucruri marunte, linistea vine din suflet, lumina vine din inima fiecaruia! Va uram un PASTE FERICI!
The joy comes from small things, the peace comes from the soul, the light comes from the heart of everyone. We wish you a Happy Easter!
Our Practicum Period has come to an end but not of course without its triumphs and tribulations. The greatest achievement has been increasing the social integration amongst the participants, which has been the first aim of Blogging the Dream. In the last post, it is demonstrated through the participants’ own words how this project has been beneficial to them, whether it be through friendships, gaining computer skills or simply spending time in a welcoming atmosphere.
In terms of challenges, we have encountered both expected and unexpected difficulties throughout our Training and Practicum Periods. The participants involved had lower levels of computer skills than we originally thought, so we have had to spend a significant amount of time teaching the basics. As the technical level of the training advanced, the ability of our computers to perform decreased. The Rising Voices grant provided Orizonturi Foundation with a new computer, which is the only one that can support the needed software and perform all functions required to blog. Thus, the participants’ “face time” with the computers has not been entirely conducive to learning. Although there are noticeable improvements in their skills, we still have not accomplished all of our intended objectives.
After completion of the Practicum Period our project proposed the initiation of the Blogging Club, in which members would create a common blog together through weekly meetings. However, in order to address the shortcomings we have experienced thus far, we are going to use this next month as a transition period. This will allow time to continue learning and implementing additional technical skills. Furthermore, we need this time to discuss with participants what goals they want to accomplish through the common blog (i.e. what topics and themes do they want the blog to address?) Leadership roles and basic club organization also needs to be determined during this transitional stretch.
Lastly, we are hoping to get more individuals involved, which we will continue to do on an ongoing basis. Since the commencement of the project, the students involved from Centrul Scolar have spread interest to their peers, drawing in additional students. Due to the lack of older participants, we want to direct our focus towards this particular demographic. Currently we are targeting members of the literary club to get involved with the incentive that Blogging the Dream is simply another opportunity for their material to be dispersed.
We are well into our Practicum Period and developing our blogs. Participants have had weekly assignments to put into practice what they have learned during the Technical Training. We have been doing quite a bit of review but it’s proving to be useful as participants are remembering and learning how to do the various tasks on their own.
It should also be known that other members and groups of Horizons Foundation are greatly benefiting from having access to the internet. The Cenaclu (literary circle) and English club often utilize this new resource for gathering information, whether it's to find a Mihai Eminescu poem or simply an online dictionary. As a result, our groups are beginning to reach an entirely new level. During our social hours, interested individuals are able to set up an email account and get a crash course on using the internet. A number of the blogging participants are also active in these groups and take pride in showing off their blogs to fellow organization members. In turn, spreading curiosity and interest within their immediate social networks. We can only hope this continues to branch throughout our entire community.
Below are some excerpts (and translations) from a few of our participants’ blogs. They were asked to reflect on their participation in Blogging the Dream thus far.
Olga (53 years old)
“Despre program am aflat de la Fundatia Orizonturi. Am intrat sa comunic. Castig noi cunostinte si pot descifra taine noi. Participarea la acest program imi deschide noi orizonturi. Ca participant ma simt fascinata de nou. Instructorul a pus mult suflet si pasiune pentru a ne ajuta sa facem primii pasi. Am invatat sa scriu mesaje si cum se face un blog. Invatamintele capatate ma vor ajuta sa-mi potolesc nevoia de dialog si de a cunoaste oameni noi. Toate acestea le voi investi in dezvoltarea blogului meu. Asa m-am decis sa-mi cumpar in cel mai scurt timp un calculator! “
“I found out about the program [Blogging the Dream] through Orizonturi Foundation and got involved in order to interact and communicate with others. Participating in this program has opened new horizons for me; I have gained new knowledge and can now decipher things that were once a mystery. The trainer has invested much soul and passion in helping us make the first steps. I have learned how to send emails and create a blog. The knowledge I have gained will help me in moderating my need for dialog and meeting new people. I have made the decision of buying a PC as soon as possible.”
Geta (46 years old)
“Am intrat in program ca sa invat lucruri noi. Am invatat sa ma descurc putin la calculator. Participarea la acest program inseamna pentru mine comunicare cu mai multi oameni. Ca participant la acest program ma simt mai aproape de oameni. Instruirea teoretica a fost interesanta si am invatat lucruri noi. Voi folosi cunostintele acumulate pentru crearea unui blog si comunicarea cu mai multi oameni.”
“I got involved with this program [Blogging the Dream] to learn new things, and now I’m able to slowly navigate my own way on the computer. Communicating with more people is what participation in this program means to me. I already feel closer to people since starting this program. The theoretical training was interesting and I learned new things. I will use the knowledge gained to create my blog and communicate with more people.”
Andrea (13 years old)
“Eu am aflat despre acest program prin doamna Mirela careia ii multumesc foarte mult. Tot ea m-a ajutat ca impreuna cu voi,”Fundatia Orizonturi”, sa invat sa scriu pe calculator compuneri. Tot ea m-a adus la voi unde vin intotdeauna cu bucurie si totdeauna sunt bine dispusa sa incep un nou curs si sa invat cate ceva nou. Am intrat in program deoarece imi place foarte mult sa ma joc sa scriu si foarte multe lucruri pe calculator. Dar pentru asta mai intai trebuie sa invat cum sa lucrez pe el, daca e bine sa ma uit in fisierul ala sau daca nu e bine. Castigul meu din acest program sunt prietenia persoanelor cu care studiez impreuna si invatamintele pe care le primesc de la ei.“
“I learned about this program [Blogging the Dream] through Mirela, who I want to thank very much. Together with Horizons Foundation, she has taught me how to use the computer. I always come to this course with pleasure and willing to learn something new. I joined the program because I enjoy writing and playing games on the computer but here I learn how to work on the computer. My gains from this program are the friendships with those I study and the lessons I learn from them.”
Our Technical Training has officially ended. Participants are slowly on their way to getting their blogs up and running. They enjoyed learning how to use the digital camera and loading their pictures onto the computer. It truly puts a smile on your face to see the ownership and pride that the participants are taking in their work.
Unfortunately as the days grew shorter and colder (we have limited heat at the club) some of the participants did not show up regularly. However, there is an extremely reliable group of eight that toughed out the training together to the very end.
We will now have a few weeks off for the holidays and resume our weekly meetings in January to start the Practicum Period. During this time they will be responsible for completing weekly projects to demonstrate what they have learned thus far. Further developing their blogs and becoming comfortable navigating through them on their own will be the main focus. On the right, under Participant Blogs you can see the slowly budding blogs of some of our more avid students.
In November, our Executive Director Gabriela Tanasan was invited by the Soros Foundation to their Advocacy Through Blogging conference in Bucharest, Romania. She had the opportunity to present our Blogging The Dream project. Please go to the following link to learn more: http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2008/11/live-blogging-o.html It's exciting to see others interested in our project efforts, not to mention receiving encouragement and feedback. Furthermore, Gabriela brought back a lot of information on additional blogging tools that we are excited to implement during our Practicum Period.
Until next year…Noroc!
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.