One day Zoé was telling Joshua about Nóra Ritók and the Real Pearl Foundation, that gives art education to disadvantaged children, and showed him paintings of the kids.
In this time we lived in Portugal and the Real Pearl Foundation seemed far away, but it was always in our mind. We talked often about it and thought about ways and projects to work together with them.
We liked a lot the idea of making the illustrations for our kidbook “Lola and the Ice Cream Conspiracy” with the children together. But still it seemed, specially for the distance, more like a dream. Then our life made an unexpected turn and surprisingly we came back to Hungary.
Last week we finally met Nóra, the leader of the Real Pearl Foundation.
It was a very interesting day, with unexpected happenings. First we were talking with Nóra about her life, about the activities of the foundation when she surprisingly invited us to come with her to the village Told, where the foundation have a unique project to help the people.
But first let us tell you a little bit about Nóra. When she was in highschool she wanted to be clown in a circus
In the end she became a drawing and geography teacher. After the university she stayed at home to take care of her two kids.
When they were old enough, she started to work in her profession. Her first workplace was a public school. Here she faced the first time with the situation of disadvantaged children and was shocked about the level of segregation. She started to develop her own method to help these children through art education. “My model has three pillars: One is to develop skills, the second is to decrease disadvantages and the third is to improve social competence.”
She reached big successes with the children, but the collegues were jealous and hostile. When the church finally took back the school, they did not want disadvantaged children in the institute anymore and wanted to stop with Nóra’s method.
Nóra left and decided to make an own foundation. This was 15 years ago. Now the Real Pearl Foundation is giving afternoon art education for over 500 children.
But beside they do much more. “You cannot help the disadvantaged children without reaching their families”, says Nóra. So the foundation also helps the families to get out of their desperate situation with collecting donations (food, furniture, firewood, medications …), giving scholarships to the children, organizing trainings and information events, improving their self-sustaining skills (cooking, making garden, keeping animals, repairing the buildings …) and creating workplaces.
Now back to Told. Eight years ago the Real Pearl Foundation started a unique program in this segregated little village. From the 350 habitants 70% are gipsy. When Nóra first time came here, the level of poverty and criminality was extremely high and most of the adults could not read and write. Now Nóra and her foundation are trying to help in many levels. They are creating workplaces with the Suno handcraft program (“Suno” means “dream” in gipsy language). In the frame of this program the women in the village are embroidering the paintings of the children on bags and vallets, they are creating painted bags and making glass paintings. The foundation is selling these products in their webshop.
Beside they started the Amari marmalade cooking program. The women of the village are making marmalade out of out of beetroot, carrot and berries that they collect in the area.
They have a carpenter workshop where the men of the village are repairing furniture and making boxes. The women are later decorating these boxes with painting the pictures of the kids on them.
This year the foundation and the people of Told started to grow safran. They have 30 000 plants, that are right now blossoming.
With the help of a found, they built a greenhouse for tomatoes and other vegetables.
They have a biobrikett factory, where they manufacture heating material from agriculture end products, so that the people in the village do not need to steal firewood in the forest anymore.
The foundation also started and afternoon school. Here they help the children in preparing for the classes, they play boardgames and have a discussion club to improve communication skills.
They organize a baby-mother club and information evenings to decrease teenage pregnancy, family violence and criminality.
Despite their success, the Real Pearl Foundation is in a permanent fight for survival. They do not get any government support for their activities. So they keep up themselves only from international founds and the donations of private people and companies.
“But for this work you need patience. A lot of patience.”, says Nóra “We plan our strategy for 20 years and right now we are in the seventh. The experiences that we get are the most important. What we can, we measure. Because we still believe that once the govenment will be also interested.”