This summer, we at Kalunba Social Services finally got to move into our new community center! Team members from all over the world have been gradually getting it fixed up into a more welcoming space to serve the needs of our clientele. Dal Troy, artist, architect, and member at St. Columba’s Church of Scotland, took the lead on our interior design work, coming up with creative and practical ways to solve our everyday needs. Beyond this, though, he also worked with a team of Kalunba volunteers to add vibrant artwork to the space that was created with love to foster an environment that is comfortable and welcoming.
Through our summer camp programs, we took almost 60 migrant and refugee kids to a five day camp at Lake Balaton. We had three different camps, broken down by age group, so that young people of all ages could experience the joy of camp during whichever week fit their age category. This opportunity was given to us by Hungarian Interchurch Aid (they also documented our time at camp, including taking the wonderful photos at Lake Balaton that have been used in this post!), providing us not only with a week long camp at Lake Balaton, but days there that were full of quality events such as visiting nearby historical sights, going on boat rides on the lake, and more. This experience was important because it allowed the youth to just be themselves – for one week they didn’t have to worry about their troubles and stress, they could just hang out and experience life in a safe and comfortable environment.
In early July we held our yearly English day-camp in cooperation with St. Columba’s Scottish Mission in Budapest, the congregation which housed our organization prior to our relocation this summer. Around thirty children total attended the English camp and the youth in attendance spoke a mixture of Hungarian, English, Farsi, Arabic, and more. They came from all over the world, representing countries like Hungary, the United States, Scotland, Syria, Iran, Togo, and more to gather in community for the week as they learned a bit of English.
Our two big projects funded by the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund were given the green light even before the summer started, when things are usually slow and quiet, but we were in high gear preparing everything to give them a powerful start. The Hungarian program had courses throughout the summer leading to 18 people taking their first certificate exams at the end of July. Applications were at a high throughout August, with many new classes set to begin in September from illiterate to advanced levels.
During the summer months our housing program has faced difficulties never seen before with the amount of open hostility to migrants and refugees now being shown in Budapest. Homeowners rarely trust us anymore due to their prejudices towards the clients we work with, therefore our waiting list gets longer every day. We faced an unprecedented amount of stress with neighbors being overly sensitive and prejudicial towards children and living styles that are different from their own. This weighed heavy on our hearts and minds. Throughout August, we managed to finally contract a few flats, but some were in bad shape and needed serious fixing up – thus prolonging the process of moving people in even more. Another issue is that our budget for helping with household furnishings only extends to major appliances that are a need, such as a fridge or washing machine. Many of the flats that we find completely lack any furniture, forcing us to rely on donations for small kitchen appliances and more; this means that when we do finally get a flat, it takes even longer to set up than it ever has in the past. About 30 people are currently on the selected list of participants who already moved in or soon are ready to move into their new flats, and attending Hungarian lessons in the meantime.
Last but not least, we completed all the procedures to bring in the last Syrian family to be resettled into Hungary, meaning that 22 Syrians total are now participating in our integration program.
All this is possible thanks to our hard working staff and the tremendous amount of volunteer hours given by fantastic folks from round the world – some serving here in person, others helping online, many who pray for us, and those souls who give generously to us. Thank you to everyone for making this such a productive summer.
Article by Dóra Kanizsai-Nagy and Kearstin Bailey