Our Town: Almost 9 000 volunteers improved and beautified Slovakia
Thousands of people decided to use their time to improve and beautify Slovakia. They participated in the Our Town event, organized by the Pontis Foundation, and spent a working day in schools, community centres, or improving forests, parks and castles. In the week commencing the 10th of June, almost 9,000 volunteers in 48 towns all across Slovakia lent their hand to a good cause.
Every year, the Our Town event connects companies, municipalities and the civil sector to visibly improve the places where we live and work. Employees of various companies pick up work tools and go to volunteer where needed during the event. This year, they have beautified, for example, Bratislava, Košice, Žilina and Nitra. Zlaté Moravce also made it to the top five in terms of the number of involved volunteers.
“Our Town is an ideal gateway to the world of volunteering. The corporate volunteers felt good to have helped where it was needed and where organisations and schools could otherwise afford it only with great effort. They also experienced pleasant team building with colleagues, rested and exchanged offices or home offices for the outdoors for a while,” explains Michal Kišša, executive director of the Pontis Foundation.
Volunteers preserved technical monuments, castles and gardens
The event participants took advantage of the opportunity to participate in 410 activities all across Slovakia. They were in charge of repairing children’s playgrounds in housing estates, planting trees, painting fences or cleaning waterways, disposing of black dumps and much more.
For example, the botanical garden in Košice got involved in Our Town for the first time. Thanks to the event, the fence and gate around the garden got a new coat of paint, and volunteers also helped with the maintenance of the flower beds. In ZOO Bratislava, they started doing fencing for gibbons, macaques and an enclosure for antelopes.
An interesting activity was helping the Railway Modellers’ Club, which is building a permanent railway exhibition in Martin. The organisation focuses on renovating historic vehicles and setting them up as excursion trains in the vicinity of Vrútky. This year, the club’s volunteers helped clean the exhibits and restore the railway water crane as the museum finally opened its doors after the pandemic.
A group that helped the Railway Modellers’ Club. Photo: Silvia Mlichová/Franke
“A total of 19 castles and monuments received help this year. Volunteers lent their hand to the work at three castles in the vicinity of Bratislava, including one of our most famous – in Devín, three in the east of Slovakia and Hričovský castle near Žilina. In Nitra, they cleaned the site of the ruins of the Zobor Monastery. Their support for the protection of monuments is invaluable. In some cases, the volunteers helped even in archaeological research,” says M. Kišša.
They cleaned Liptovská Mara and Little Danube
Nature cleaning has long been among the most popular activities of Our Town. Volunteers went to forests, parks or rivers and streams to help the environment. Every year in Bratislava, there is great interest in cleaning the Little Danube, when participants pull garbage out of the water into the canoe in which they sail. Others helped in the liquidation of illegal waste dumps in Bratislava’s Lamač and Zlaté Piesky. In Liptovský Mikuláš, the volunteers helped clean Liptovská Mara.
Cleaning of the vineyard and black dump. Photo: Marek Mucha
The participants also helped the association Pro Memory in Spišská Nová Ves with the rescue of the last Jewish monument in the town. The cemetery, which activists discovered in 2006, is part of the Slovak Route of Jewish Cultural Heritage. During Our Town, the plan was to clean and sculpt the entrance area.
What was said about Our Town
“We participate in the great Our Town event every year. It’s been 15 years already. It helps us a lot because we could not attract so many volunteers to us by ourselves. The participants are always nice and hardworking. The atmosphere here is great.”
Tibor Letko, chairman of the board of the Slávia Gymnastics Centre
“For us, Our Town is important not only because volunteers come and help us do in one day what would take us a month, but they can also get to know our activities, what we do and how we live. They have the opportunity to meet people with disabilities, people without homes or now also Ukrainian refugees, talk to them and feel the atmosphere of the community. We invite volunteers with a slogan: Be a part of our community centre for a while and find out what the society lives by.”
Alžbeta Šporerová, director of the Family Centre
“I joined Our Town because it’s a very nice activity. I can help someone and, at the same time, I am outside together with my colleagues.”
Anita Bartalošová, volunteer
Almost 9000 people joined forces and helped
Our Town is the largest corporate volunteering event in Central Europe. This year, it has been held for the sixteenth time and 8,820 volunteers took part in it in various places all across Slovakia. They helped a total of 216 non-profit organisations, low-threshold centres, as well as schools and kindergartens to improve their functioning.
The inspiration for Our Town was the New York Cares event, during which thousands of New Yorkers clean up together and change their city for the better.
Painting a fence in a kindergarten in Ružinov, Bratislava. Photo: Up Dejeuner
“Each of us can help beautify our surroundings, and it only takes a little. It is often the small actions of individuals that help improve the lives of entire communities. The Our Town initiative makes sure that everyone can contribute,” says David Kolář, the director of communications and marketing at Hornbach, which supports the event.
A total of 162 companies and institutions sent corporate volunteers to join the Our Town event. You could meet enthusiastic people with a desire to help in 48 Slovak towns. They wore characteristic white T-shirts with the inscription “My heart is in the right place”, which was designed for the event by Slavomír Artim, known as Dyslektik.
You can also see photos from Our Town in our gallery on Facebook.