Educational Tour for Activists

On June 5-8, 2016, an educational tour for activists from Bragin district was held in Smolevichi and Borisov districts. For four days, participants carried out conversations, meetings and classes on issues of economic, environmental, social and cultural development, information support, and identification of leadership skills, teamwork and development of project work skills.

The tour was held within the framework of the initiative “Incubator for Cooperation (Incubator of Initiatives for the Sustainable Development of Bragin district”) being implemented as a part of the EU/UNDP project “Support to Local Development in the Republic of Belarus”. Thus, the main task of the tour was to develop capacities of the district’s activists and the public group for coordination and collaboration of initiatives.  

On June 5, the day of participants’ arrival, the majority of speakers delivered speeches. The working programme began with the meeting with Sergey Dolgushev, a musician and manager of the musical group “Vuraj”. He talked about results of the expedition to Bragin district and the initiative “Speuny Skhod” (“Chant Union”) which had been actively developing lately and had attracted attention of the wide audience to a folk and historical song. Sergey Dolgushev showed how “Speuny Skhod” was held and asked the participants to “reveal” their voices and learn two songs that had been recorded in May 2016 in areas historically related to Bragin district. The participants were enthusiastic about the proposal and learnt songs. Many of them remembered those songs sung by their grandmothers and agreed with Sergey that a song should be returned to everyday life, but not to be sung only on holidays.

Yuliya Litvinova and Dmitriy Murashko, members of the Students' Ethnographic Community (the SEC), and Roman Likhoshapko, a musician, continued talking about folk traditions. Dmitriy Murashko talked about the history of the national wind instrument, the pipe, the play tradition, reconstruction, restoration of playing the pipe tradition and played a few melodies. Yulia Litvinova talked about a folk costume typical for Bragin district, its traditions and ways to wear it. Special attention was paid to the “circle” - a traditional neck accessory that was typical for the district. During the speech, the audience watched photos and costume elements collected during expeditions.

Roman Likhoshapko spoke about the expedition research, methods of collecting materials, their processing, storage, presentation and promotion. After showing several records and photos, he together with Yuliya Litvinova performed several songs that had been traditionally sung in days of remembrance of ancestors. The audience was very interested in participating in the expeditions, ways to organize them and options of presentation of song heritage on various media.

After a short break, the Yungins family (a mother, a father and 5 children) talked about their participation at the contest “The Best Large Family in Minsk” and showed some excerpts from their contest presentation. It was clear which traditions the family respected and how they strived to educated their children. A short conversation about the results of the contest “My Family” continued the meeting. The contest was held in Bragin on May 7.

Almost in the evening, activists moved from theory to practice. Under the guidance by Galina Kashevskaya, a business consultant in the “Rest in the Village” Belarusian NGO, Bragin residents divided into groups and composed projects that should answer the question “How to increase the attractiveness of the district for themselves, neighbours and distant guests”. While working, the participants developed interesting ideas, that, as noted by the participants themselves, were very real and could be implemented.

Alla Belyavskaya, a singer, teacher and volunteer of the initiative, finished the day by holding a traditional musical evening party “In a Circle of Friends”.  

On June 6, the programme included working on three directions: agriculture, psychology and common and local history.

Agricultural direction included an excursion on the recreation and educational centre of the GCB NGO as well as visiting facilities of the pilot initiative “Creating a Network of Innovation and Demonstration Grounds on Farming and Organic Agriculture to Promote Sustainable Land Use, Agricultural Labour among the Young, to Improve School Nutrition and to Get Income by Rural Schools”, implemented within the framework of the EU/UNDP project ““Supporting the Transition to a Green Economy in the Republic of Belarus”. Participants of the tour visited a lemon tree nursery, training demonstration grounds on organic farming, learnt about main work principles on such grounds. As a result, participants discussed opportunities of the development of organic agriculture principles in Bragin district.

Most of the time of the programme was provided to the training “Psychological Basics of Working in a Team” held by Dina Ponyatovskaya, an expert of the initiative. During the training, the participants continued learning teamwork skills and found out how to influence and stand against manipulation, to appreciate own and others’ work, as well as praise and receive praise. After the training, many noted that they got new understanding of how they should behave when working in a team to do tasks in a coordinated and effective manner.

Common and local history part consisted of the excursion on the thematic agricultural country estate “Bivak” and a meeting with former residents of Bragin district who had been collecting and preserving its history.  During the excursion, participants learnt about the history of Napoleon’s crossing through the Berezina River, and visited a mini-museum where fragments of events of 1812 were stored. They also walked through the area and found out basic features of the country estate. The country estate’s owner talked about basic principles of its organization, proposed programmes and discussed the development of agricultural tourism. The main idea of the conversation was the fact that each country estate should find something unique, which would become the basis for development: a historical fact, tradition, craft, etc.  Organization of the agricultural cluster was also covered in the conversation. All participants of the excursion were impressed by the country estate’s organization, circumspect details and the fact that the country estate had been founded not only for recreation but also for education. The excursion pushed the participants to discuss opportunities of the district and search for unique features that could become attractive for a prospective tourist. 

In the evening, there was a meeting with former residents of Bragin district, Petr Ivanovich Burduk, a former head of the collective farm n.a. Telman, and Valeriy Nikolaevich Gerasimov, the head of the Department of rare books of the Presidential Library of the Republic of Belarus, a son of the director of studies of Bragin secondary school. During the meeting, each talked about their memories: work, friends, neighbours, relations to one another, to a business. The meeting aroused a keen response. There were many questions. The main wish was to remember their memories.

The following two days were dedicated to the 23rd International Exhibition “Belagro-2016” and the international special exhibitions “Befarm-2016” and “Belproduct-2016”. After short discussions regarding the results of the holiday “Bragin Fair”, presentation of the initiatives’ work and final feedback on results of the educational tour, the participants visited open and closed platforms of the exhibitions. The scale, number and variety of represented machinery, animals, plants and fish farms’ work impressed the participants. A lot of people not only watched and were interested in technologies but also purchased seedlings, chicks and other products for their farms. Bragin residents noted that presented products at the exhibition generated some ideas that could be realized in the district, and the purchased goods could serve as a model for further development.

It might be noted that the educational tour was very fruitful. The activists generated a lot of new ideas and old ideas were developed to a new level. Everyone hoped that, eventually, all ideas will be realized either with the support of local and international organizations or without it.

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This publication has been produced with the supportoftheEuropeanUnion. Responsibility for the content of the publication rests with the Green Cross Belarus NGO, and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.