Nóra L. Ritók: It is difficult to think about the future

January 4, 2015

Nóra L. Ritók is a the director of the “Real Pearl Foundation”, a private NGO which works with underprivileged children in Hungary.  A teacher by profession, she has written extensively on education and social policy and its impact on the poor.   Since 1999 she has published a blog entitled “On the edge of poverty”  Her first blog post of 2015 (number 451) appeared on January 4th.

Day by day I experience in my immediate surroundings how those living in deep poverty have no chance or hope for a quality life.  I know education, the social sphere, and the health programs running in parallel but incapable of strengthening one another.   I sense the immeasurable gap between official and personal points of view.  And I also see how it is easy for many to condemn without knowing the situation.  I want things to change, which is why I started writing this diary.

It is difficult to think about the future.  Especially if a person works with the poor, which, according to official statistics do not really exist.  And for whom the decision makers believe public work and centralized education ensures future happiness and even opportunity for equality.  Because things will be so good that there will not be any need for certain social supports.

But I’m afraid this will remain on the level of governmental communication, and we have to continue what we started for them, because of them, and for ourselves.  The state has never paid much attention to use, and presumably won’t in the future, although there are more and more supporters and those rooting for us.  So it’s obvious we are not alone.

What is our present situation.  The most important thing is that we have succeeded in making many things understood about the why’s and how’s of poverty, and that is an important part of successful work.   I believe we have a clear view of the problem map, from birth to death, from children to adults, from families to society, and from self-reliance to the possibility of creating jobs.

We are patiently trying to replicate movements in individuals, but already society together is being moved by events.  As a partner.  Because for sure we are working in a partner relationship.

The most important change in 2015 was the launch of our foundation as a nonprofit company.   We will try to allocate activities of an economic nature to the foundation.  In this goes the handicrafts which is running well, the SZUNO which prepares embroidered bags, pillows, laptop holders, accessories, telephone holders, and many other products as well, from notebooks and glass icons to kites.  A new product from January will be wood working products as well.  And also here will be the growing and collection (of herbs, berries), jam making, etc. which we are still in the process of organizing, awaiting for the creation of certain conditions that are under way, but the most important is that they are doing it, satisfactorily, as learned, and are motivated.

We see that we have to process the herbs ourselves if we want work places.  Because the most important goal of establishing the company is to create jobs where there are none, and where it can be economically interesting, where multiple investments are needed to, in addition to redressing lack of infrastructure and technical knowledge, develop work skills like responsibility, orderliness, work discipline, planning, time management, and the ability to work as a team, mutual trust, motivation, commitment, setting an example, in conditions where there is a lack of infrastructure and technical knowledge.

Because those who grow up without this cannot prove to be adequate workers.  And these cannot be passed on by parents if they don’t development them.  Poverty, irregular work, unreported work, and money obtained through criminal activities does not provide an adequate basis for this.

I think this was our most difficult struggle – to create the small core with whom we could dare to undertake the entire enterprise.  And of course among the planned activities there are many which are just ideas, but we are working on the conditions.  We are looking at everything, everywhere with open eyes.

Because the children grow up, and by the time they enter the work force, it would be good to give them the opportunity, there, where their parents are already working, in that community, with a more certain future than the one envisioned by public work.

I am certain that as a nonprofit company we have will more opportunities to apply for grants, employ people, undertake projects, than as a foundation, and that in this form we can better concentrate on making our improvements economically viable.  And perhaps in this way the community building and education will be more valued.  From this community we need to produce that knowledge and ability with which we ourselves can maintain the whole thing.  But the road there is long.  And we have to bring the knowledge and the resources so long as they are not capable of it.  The goal however is to empower them.

This is a strange enterprise, isn’t it?   It is one thing to create a company and to give everything necessary for certain success, and to search for the most suitable workers for it, on the long road of public tenders.   Working with economic calculations as to what is worthwhile, what brings the largest profit, to arrange grants for oneself, and using today’s money and won tenders to strengthen political connections.

We are going where there is nothing for this.  We have worked on this for years to create motivation for a small group from which we can start.   Of course we also need a business plan, market studies, tenders, without which we cannot get by.  But our profit will be in the workplaces we succeed in keeping and which, hopefully, we can expand.  There, in the serrated areas.

I don’t know how far we’re going to get in 2015 in this headwind.  But I’m an optimist, despite someone criticized me for not being able to be a little bit glad, and for only talking about problems.  Then I heard a joke on the radio.  What is the different between an optimist and a pessimist?  The optimist doesn’t possess any information . . . .

But I do.  I know who the colleagues are that I work with.  I see where we’ve come from in under five years and where we’re going.   I believe in those people within society who support us and in the cooperation we’re capable of bringing about.  And of those many people living in the distance who help us, root for us, and watch us.  Who will contribute something to our work.  Because it is in this was that the Real Pearl model is built up.  From much attention, support, knowledge, and love.

That is what gives strength in 2015.  I really feel now before Christmas how much ammunition this is.  It gives us background.  Strength.  Happiness.  And such things are being founded of which there is the least in Hungary:  mutual trust.