EU funds help: A subsidy brought gardeners to ENVIRA
1. 1. 2021
You pass through a gate and enter another world, dominated by greenery and cosiness. Even though it is surrounded by prefabricated blocks of flats. You are in Prague, but at the same time you have stepped into the countryside. All this is Toulec’s Farmstead (Toulcův dvůr) in Prague's Hostivař. The complex with many buildings offers fun and relaxation. But what's more, dozens of people with a health disadvantage work here also thanks to support from EU funds.
The registered association Toulcův dvůr (Toulec’s Farmstead) consists of four member non-profit organizations. The first of them is the SRAZ Association, which mainly operates the farm with cows, sheep, goats, a billy-goat, pigs, hens, ducks, rabbits and ten Hucul horses - they are used for equine therapy and for a riding club. There is also the Botič society which is part of the environmental education centre and organizes educational events. The third is the Semínko (Seed) Kindergarten with a standard class and a forest class, in which children spend most of the day in the yard and in the woods.
And finally, there is the publicly beneficial society ENVIRA. Its activities are very extensive and its mission is to create and sustain long-term jobs for people with disabilities and thus integrate them into the labour market.
"We carry out four main activities - the management and maintenance of buildings and land in Toulec’s Farmstead, the Healthy Dining Room, the handicraft workshop and gardening," says Michal Jirsa, Director of ENVIRA.
The gardening work is the newest among ENVIRA's activities. In order for 12 people with disabilities to be able to work here, a subsidy from the European Union was received under the Operational Programme Prague - Growth Pole of the Czech Republic.
"We established a new horticultural operation, the aim of which was to expand employment opportunities for the target group of people with disabilities (PWD). New jobs were created here - assistant gardeners. At present, a total of 12 PWD work on this position at two workplaces. The subsidy was essential, without it we would not have opened the project," says Director Jirsa.
ENVIRA teamed up with the owner of the nearby gardening space, Karel Elbrs, who already provided practical training at Toulec’s Farmstead for students of a horticultural school where persons with disabilities study. He had experience with both gardening and this target group, which was an ideal combination. In his unused premises and also in the premises of Toulec’s Farmstead, cultivation areas were restored and people with disabilities could start working on them.
"The first gardening work started here in February 2017. We had a grant application submitted and we believed in obtaining the grant. Even before its approval, however, we hired the first gardeners, because we could not wait for the final verdict, as many gardening works could not be postponed. We risked it and we got the subsidy in the end,“ Michal Jirsa looks back at his first experience with gardening.
The total subsidy was 5.2 million Czech crowns, of which the European Union paid 50 percent, the rest was paid by the City of Prague. This subsidy covered the horticulture operation fully for almost two years. It paid mainly for material equipment and wage costs of PWD and staff who worked directly with the target group - two lead gardeners, an occupational therapist and an expert supervisor of the project. Equally important was the funding for training assistant gardeners throughout the project.
The produce from the new horticulture is sold by the gardeners themselves at their stand in Toulec’s Farmstead in Prague's Hostivař twice a week.
HORTICULTURE PROVIDES INTERESTING WORK
"The basic idea was that we wanted to employ more PWD. We thought about a laundry, but it didn't work out. We did a survey and gardening turned out to be the best option in all respects, moreover, it fits into this environment," says PWD employment coordinator Veronika Boháčková.
In the horticulture centre of Karel Elbrs and in Toulec’s Farmstead, people with disabilities take part in all of the activities. They do everything from sowing, plucking, transplanting, harvesting to selling.
"Twice a week, we have a stall open in the courtyard of Toulec’s Farmstead with our vegetables and herbs. In addition, we supply vegetables to kindergartens and farm shops in the area. Our gardeners also help to maintain green areas on the farmstead premises. We are not a standard therapeutic centre, but the changes in these people are unbelievable, they literally flourish in the horticulture centre," Veronika Boháčková added.
Photo: Jiří Macek