Earlier last year, Ér Hangja Médiacsoport managed to win its first ESC project titled Volunteers for supporting European Cultural Diversity. This amateur hosting organization has been for nearly 10 years the eyes, ears and mouth of Săcueni, which is a small town located in Romania and close to the Hungarian border. Thus, making use of their powerful media influence their aim with this ESC project is to focus on preserving and promoting the cultural heritage of the region as well as incorporating European values.

Although Săcueni belongs in Romania territory, this land is populated by a Hungarian majority and a Romania and Roma minority. Given that heavy preconceived stereotypes exist amongst the members of these communities, special importance needed to be directed towards the introduction of at least four key European values: respect for human dignity and private life; freedom of thought, religion, assembly and expression; equal right for all citizens before the law; and the right to be free from discrimination on any basis. In order to achieve this, one of the organization’s main goals is to integrate in the locality by means of intercultural events, written compositions and home-made documentaries, principles of understanding, open-mindedness, cooperation, tolerance and respect.

As part of the celebration of cultural diversity across the EU in 2018, Ér Hangja also intends to work towards the strengthening of cultural heritage in all its shapes and forms given that it has the power to shape people’s collective identities and daily lives. Every community should acknowledge that it is essential to preserve our past so that in can be passed onto future generations. During the 2018 conference on European heritage, the director of culture and creativity for the European Commission Michael Magnier pointed out that “culture is undoubtedly the cement that binds Europe together”. In fact, it is time for European countries to start appreciating the existing commonalities that exist between them across a wide range of fields.

 Let’s get the ball rolling: a splash of Spanish culture

Since the arrival of our first volunteer, Ér Hangja been trying to introducing interculturalism into the community by bring Spanish culture to the doorsteps of Săcueni. Every month our three volunteers are in charge of organizing interactive and stimulating events in order to promote those values such as the ones mentioned above. Thus far, there has been a “Flamenco night” (showcasing a traditional dance), “Christmas in Spain” (recreating a typical festive season), “A splash of Spanish culture” (basics of the culture and language) and “A taste of Spain” (degustation of the most emblematic dishes and cinema). It seems that this initiative has had a widely applauded acceptance across the city. Those who attend seem to be approaching these activities with curiosity and willingness to learn more about our foreign volunteers and their culture. Every month new cultural events will be announced through the organization’s social media, advertising leaflets and the traditional word of mouth methods in order to try and reach a wider audience.

On top of this, these three solidary volunteers have also been carrying out individual tasks during the last couple of months to reach the outlined objective. Jon began working on the project last November and given his passion for photography and film-making he has been thoroughly working on the creation of a documentary which concerns Hungarian identity in Romania, and touches themes such as ethnicity, identity, interethnic and intra-ethnic conflict. Even though his expectations are not yet defined, he is trying to discover what are the citizens’ thoughts on this matter in order to depict the reality of the city. A few months later Andrea arrived to Săcueni and started making use of her creative writing abilities to produce comprehensive articles which are published on a mothy basis in the local newspaper. With her work she aims to encourage citizen participation in the rediscovering of their cultural heritage, stand up for those who have been deprived of a voice, assist in the promotion of intercultural values and foster the detection of those inevitable similarities’ that the three cohabiting ethnicities share amongst themselves and with their European counterparts. Already a week into January, our third passionate and witty volunteer Alba set foot in the city with the aim of organizing and putting into practice events which contribute to the preservation and development of the Hungarian cultural heritage. Mainly targeting younger generations, she aspires to stimulate children and teenagers into learning about their history and traditions in a fun environment that also allows them to expand their minds and creativity. 

It needs to be acknowledged that volunteering is a double-edge activity. given that throughout the solidarity project, not only participants are trying to have a positive impact on the locality, but said locality is also giving back to volunteers by teaching them extremely valuable lessons and life learning experiences. Therefore, from the Ér Hangja Médiacsoport we would like give to convey on behalf of our volunteers a heartfelt message: thank you for working with us shoulder to shoulder, and for having received us with open arms into your community!

Andrea Sofía Sánchez Almeida