Společenství Dobromysl (Good Mind Community)

Workweek social welfare centre for the mentally disabled with a protected workshop in Srbeč near Rakovník

At the beginning of the history of Společenství Dobromysl there stood the first Director of Jedličkův ústav (The Jedlička Institute for physically disabled young people in Prague, the most professional and famous one in the country, established in 1913) in the post-communist era, Dr. Anežka Krčková-Janátová, the author of the today's operation conception of Jedličkův ústav. Dr. Janátová founded the Institute for Leisure Time Pedagogy (today The Academy of Social Arts Tabor) where top social artists from many European countries work. A part of the teaching process in this institution is a year-long scholarship in a foreign institute. Most of the graduates of the Tabor Academy use their knowledge and experience to found (and in many cases to conduct) their own barrier-free social welfare centres and protected workshops for the disabled.

One of these institutions is the protected workshop Eliáš in Prague which is organizationally connected with Jedličkův ústav and which was founded in 1997. Its co-founders, social therapist Bc. Monika Nosková and art therapist Bc. Daniela Kederová together with their husbands restorer Tomáš Nosek and graphic designer Ing. Martin Keder and a couple of friends founded Společenství Dobromysl in 2000 inspired by Swiss and German Steiner-Waldorf social communities. A year later with a significant aid of foreign teachers and supporters this community bought a dilapidated country manor in Srbeč u Rakovníka, the history of which dates back to 13th century and was sadly finished in the communist era under the directive of a nationalized collective farm.

But Společenství Dobromysl stared writing a completely new history in Srbeč. Its first feat was a refurbishment of the manor which took two years. At the time when the first couple of rooms in the manor became habitable the founders, who at that time were pregnant, kept coming there with clients of Eliáš workshop for regular country stays once a week.

Later (when the whole first floor of the former office block of the collective farm was habitable and there was - like in the middle ages - a coal-burning stove in each room) they started organizing whole-week stays with the clients. Today the former office building (originally the aristocratic residence) is almost refurbished and equipped with a boiler with a central heating system for five rooms of the clients, workshop, kitchen and two apartments of the therapists.

Other potentially usable buildings, a large 4-storey oast house and a staff lodge haven't been used from financial reasons yet. Six out of ten mentally disabled clients of ours at the age between 20 to 75 years, who arrive every Monday to spend the workweek with us, come from the neighbourhood of Srbeč...

One of the reasons is that the welfare centre became involved in the life of the village with 200 inhabitants as well as the whole region - mainly because it brought back our ancestors' annual traditions to life. The year in Srbeč traditionally begins with the Three wise men going carol-singing and Shrovetide carnival, after the Easter it continues with Whitsuntide feasts, St. John's midsummer play and St. Michael's feast when the Angel (performed by the local nursery school teacher) guides a pilgrim to the dragon's cave. The traditional year then ends with the opening feast of Advent during which people walk through a twirled spiral made of conifer branchlets symbolizing qualities of the four Advent weeks, they light up a candle from the flame inside it which they then put on a convenient place on the edge of their path.

Many inhabitants of the village and Dobromysl friends from the whole country take part in these events together with the clients of Dobromysl and country kids (among whose there are also four children of the founders of the welfare centre). Deliberate revival of yearly rhythms and some traditions, which in fact were natural psychotherapy for our ancestors, belong to the basic means of the therapeutic pedagogy of Rudolf Steiner. It is based on the effort to include all our organs and senses in their natural rhythm in a comprehensive therapy of emotional, mental and spiritual experience.

A typical day in Dobromysl starts at eight o'clock with breakfast, then we tidy up and feed the animals (in spring and summer we take them to the pasture). Currently we have three sheep, a goat, a dog, four cats, a pair of geese and a herd of hens. After both us and the animals fill up we form a circle (both the clients and the therapists, and during holidays also their kids) and start the day with a song and a talk about the forthcoming day. Among others it is a therapeutic factor for building up the time-awareness of clients with autistic disorders. Then we do the morning exercise using eurhythmics methods - therapy based on the motion art.

Later in the morning we do the work therapy in the protected workshop equipped mainly for creating linocut, photogravure, blind-blocking and dry point techniques. Some of them are used for making greeting cards which we offer to different companies and traders or we sell them together with other hand-made products of ours at Easter and Advent fairs or in our friends' shops. Besides we make wood decorations and painted silk scarves and pictures. Specially trained clients also make woven rugs and covers or stone decorations. A part of the therapy is also a remuneration of clients for the products they had made. Sometimes we also spend sunny spring and summer days working on our small ecological field.

After lunch made by a local cook and after the midday break we start the art therapy based on graphic art and music experience. We also rehearse short song and theatre performances themed to regular year rhythms which we then present at primary schools, charity bazaars and festivals for the disabled (eg. a popular festival Mezi ploty - Among the Fences - in Prague).

At 4 pm two evening therapists start up the afternoon activities (one of them is also the author of this article - student in the final year of Tabor Academy and freelance editor:-) The afternoon is usually dedicated to a walk, visit to village neighbours or sport (exercises, in winter sledging and swimming in the swimming-pool in Slaný town). After supper we spend time together in the common dayroom where we play party games or watch classical movies on DVD as a part of the educational programme. At 10 pm we go to bed.

During the summer holidays when the centre is unoccupied we organize a two-week summer stay with a special course in which clients learn a new craft. One of the most popular crafts is stone-sculpture. Thanks to the aid from our friends from the Theatre Club Lávka, Theathre Broadway and the National Gallery in Prague who offered us free tickets we started a series of visits in culture amenities in October 2008.

With the aid of AB help company which specializes in providing sponsorship cars and companies which will be willing to put their advert on this car with the cost of about 800 EUR we will hopefully get a new 9-seat minivan Ford Tranzit for the cultural trips with our clients.

Other friends of Dobromysl such as film director Igor Chaun, marionette theatre Tineola, guitar virtuoso Lenka Mitášová, music maker of the famous animated cartoon Krteček (The Little Mole) Jiří Strohner, composer Varhan Bauer (music composer of Milos Forman film Goya´s Ghosts), folk singers and songwriters Vladimír Merta, Pepa Nos and Jiří Dědeček or organist Milan Dušek started their charitable performances in the centre.

Although we are struggling for survival in these days, we have many plans for future. Apart from other things we plan to open a protected cafe in the ground floor gothic rooms of the manor house or to start all-year operation (including weekends).

However, the fees we get from our clients are adequate to their possibilities, and they are just token fees in comparison with the real operation costs of the centre. Therefore any kind aid from our friends and supporters is the principal factor which, apart from fees from the clients and contribution from the state, enables us to survive and progress.

Published in Czech-English internet magazine www.pressum.eu

Translated by Martin Karlíček