Returning last Saturday to a rural retreat center 60 miles south of Budapest, in Civic, we finished teaching the second weekend of a 4-day organizing training for Roma community leaders.
It went great! We just completed the evaluations. Leaders expressed excitement and appreciation, indicating they look forward to putting what they learned into practice when they return home to their cities and settlements throughout Hungary.
Working with Cathy Woodson, my fellow trainer and a long-time organizer with Virginia Organizing, we trainers completed our own debriefing and evaluation. We’re also pleased. We look forward to hearing what the Roma leaders and their allies, Anita Vodal, Betti Sebaly, and others, do as they organize and work over the next few years.
It has been a busy two and a half weeks in Hungary. After Cathy and I arrived on August 29, we spent the first weekend hiking all over Budapest, armed with a compass and a city map. I estimate we walked 25 miles since we’ve been here. It is a beautiful city, with the Danube River running through the middle of it.
We also conducted two lectures at universities in Miskolc and Budapest, to packed rooms. Students were eager to learn about community organizing in the United States and how it might be applied in Hungary.
We talked to the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union about the collaboration between lawyers and organizers. We met with numerous NGO leaders, and last Friday we conducted a 3-hour training with a group called The City is for All. This group of homeless activists is doing really good organizing in Budapest. Our trip facilitator, Betti Sebaly, works as an organizer for this group.
We visited several Roma settlements and listened to the issues and concerns of the Roma community in Hungary.
On Monday, we traveled by train to Bratislava, Slovakia. We enjoyed a nice dinner with a group of Slovakian organizers who’ve traveled to the U.S. Tuesday, we headed to the U.S. Embassy to meet with some NGO leaders – a highlight was our half-hour meeting with the U.S. Ambassador Theodore Sedgwick. Wednesday we plan to visit the Auschwitz, the German concentration camp in occupied Poland.
By Thursday, we expect to meet again with numerous NGO leaders, and on Friday we will head back to Budapest for the night, before flying home on Saturday. It has been a very exciting time here, but I am looking forward to going home to Chicago and my family, and of course, to reuniting with my co-workers at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.