Angelus Silesius Meeting House
|Jerzy Brzóska, SJ|
Angelus Silesius Meeting House (Dom Spotkań im. Angelusa Silesiusa – DAS) was founded by the Jesuits in 1993 in Wrocław, Poland, to promote reconciliation and dialogue in Europe through work with European youth (ages 15 to 30) and through training adults who work with youth. It considers its most important area of activity as organizing programs of international youth exchange. An NGO, It belongs to the Federation of Polish Meeting Houses in Warsaw and the Association of Christian Education Works in Kraków, and receives financial support from the Polish government.
DAS got started in 1993 with help from the German Catholic charity Renovabis. Angelus Silesius was a notable priest in 16th century, Reformation times who was close to the Jesuits. Operations at DAS began with the Polish-German Youth Exchange, combining elements of history and fun and learning about other traditions and other people. Next came workshops for Polish school children, on the functioning of a democratic society and on the European Union. From 1999 DAS became a regional center for "Youth-for-Europe" for Lower Silesia, hosting international youth meetings and foreign volunteers.
In 2003, the Meeting House was the winner of the main prize for the organization of a regional V edition of the Pro Bono Publico for the best citizens' initiative. That same year the Wroclaw Department of Education listed DAS as an educational institution. DAS has been described as "one of the most active NGOs in Wroclaw."
DAS has a core of 8 people along with 30 others whom it prepared to be trainers and advisers. It offers educational activities that range over subjects such as civic education, European education, human rights, intercultural education and peace, global education, and anti-discrimination. DAS runs a dormitory for girls on site and boys can stay at St. Ignatius of Loyola Jesuit parish and commute. It has three major projects:
- House of International Youth Encounters (ASH) is a central unit in the Polish-German Youth Co-operation program and a regional unit for the European Commission's Youth Programme. It serves as a meeting place for European youth to discuss their commonalities, organizing about 15 international youth meetings a year. In this it collaborates at times with other church groups. When youth came to DAS from Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Poland to study together the principles of the European Union, four film shorts were made for wider sharing on the experience and on what was learned.
- Citizens Academy runs non-formal programs for high school students on issues of democracy and European integration.
- DAS handles placements and hosting for youth in voluntary service programs in Poland and across Europe, and helps coordinate such programs.
DAS helps prepare young people to be social leaders in the non-profit sector. It also tries to assist voluntary organizations to grow in efficiency and in cooperation throughout Europe. The Centre works with youth workers in various European countries, conducting training and consultation and assisting with management and organizational skills.
DAS also collaborates with Jesuit European Volunteers (JEV) and European Voluntary Service (EVS). One project with EVS finds DAS organizing 30 volunteers from Poland and Ukraine to conduct a summer sports and recreation program in Lviv for about six thousand youngsters.
Hostel Silesius can accommodate 64 persons. In "Das Green School" visiting high school students are introduced to the city of Wroclaw while participating in workshops on personal development and communication skills, and about opportunities offered by the EU for young people. This is also conducted in cooperation with European Schools.
DAS cooperates with the European Capital of Culture in efforts like “The Literary Wrocław”, a project aimed at encouraging reading and literature. DAS's Living Library project was featured in a European Youth Foundation book.
In conjunction with the European Parliament DAS conducts programs for high school students, unemployed young people (18–26 years), young politicians, and volunteers on problems of youth in the Polish and international context. Topics covered include European education, democratic society, civic engagement, interreligious dialogue, volunteering, and values in the lives of young people.
Other activities of DAS include advocacy for settlement rights for the Romanians in Wroclaw, assistance with kindergarten education in partnership with UNESCO, participation in intercultural fairs, assistance with World Refugee Day Program, partnering in Polish-Palestinian cultural dialogues and hosting the Polish-Israel iEARN twin conference. Interest in the Center has been evidenced as far away as Vietnam. DAS has also hosted meetings for the health and wellbeing of the elderly.
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