Help Grozny's Youth Club Find a Home
In its third year already, this dynamic community of Chechnya's brightest and most original youngsters is a rare and special thing "“ not a "project" by an NGO, not a cadre-forging government outfit, but young people coming together on their own and building a community based on the values of equality, dignity, respect and mutual support. Ostensibly, it's about practicing English through interaction, but as every visitor to Chechnya who had the good fortune of getting invited to a Club session knows, it is so much more. It is the only space in Chechnya where freedom of expression, equality and diversity are taken seriously and earnestly put into practice.
A purely volunteer-led, grass-roots initiative, the Club never had any funding but that didn't keep it from growing into a thriving, dynamic institution. The only challenge was finding a home, so that the members kept bouncing from one temporary space to another, sometimes forced out by restrictions on their freedom of speech, sometimes by demands to "own" them. The Club's story "“ its quest for a home and formation of its ethos - was recently published on OpenDemocracy. After the Club lost their most recent home at a civil society resource centre, members won permission to meet at Chechnya's National Library. Things went well enough at the library, for a while. There were some inconveniences like having to leave by 6pm, or having all their chairs removed without warning because they were needed for a conference. Or being shut out altogether during the extensive public holidays.
But then they were advised that while they were allowed to use the space, they could not talk about things like democracy or human rights during their sessions "“ not at Chechnya's national library.
This episode made one thing clear, once again: in Chechnya, if you want the freedom to think and talk about what you want and with whom you want, you need your own space. After three years of wandering, the time has come for the C&E Club to find a home of its own, and this is why we ask you for help. The Club has never been anyone's project and it wants to stay this way. It never applied for or received a grant, because splitting this community into project coordinators and beneficiaries, filling out time-sheets and meeting someone else's eligibility rules and outcome benchmarks would go against what the Club stands for "“ independence, genuine volunteering and coming together, collective decision-making and open-ended outcomes. And because most club members are university or secondary school students, they cannot afford to pay rent (their own small contributions cover tea, cookies and basic stationary supplies). That's why we hope to raise support directly from you, the Club's friend, allies and members in spirit around the world.
The Club's home will be an apartment or office, with one room large enough to fit up to 25 people at a time, and little else. This space will not only accommodate the Club's regular meetings, but be open to other community initiatives (by Club members, their friends and anyone else), like arts workshops, film screenings, talks about entrepreneurship or education abroad "“ a hub for people who want to grow, learn and support each other.
Based on current rent levels in Grozny, this should come to around $4,800 per year, including utilities. We need to raise at least half of this before the Club members can sign a contract with confidence. Once a contract has been signed, the exact costs will be posted here. The rent contract and all receipts will be shared with all contributors.
Thank you, friends! Your support makes a huge difference! And next time you're in Grozny, drop by the C&E Club as a guest of honor!
First, I wanted to Thank each and all of you! Since we started our campaign, we raised $2,946!
And now we have a few more great news!
A few weeks ago, www.newint.org published an article about our Club. I have attached a scan of it, which captures what the Club is really about. This will help us tell a story about our English Club to many like-minded people around the world! Please share it with your friends!
And most importantly, a couple of weeks ago our Club members found and rented a space! It is
one big room with a hallway, kitchen and bathroom – enough to easily fit up to 35 people. The apartment is in the centre of Grozny - easy to find and easy to get to for all participants!
And now a bit of sad news: you may have heard that about a week ago, there was a militant assault on Grozny. Only one civilian was killed, but there were explosions, shootings and buildings burnt out completely. We got in touch with our Club members and were happy to hear that everyone is OK and slowly life is returning to normal.
Now we are waiting for the Club to have their first meeting in the new place so we can post pictures for everyone to see.
Thank you again! We couldn't have done this without you!
Please share this with your friends!
$1854 to go!
And one more thing - you are always welcome to visit the Club!
More updates and photos coming soon!
More updates are coming!
Thanks for the update. Glad things are going well and there is some good news. I have a Russian soccer website for English speakers followed by a few thousand people, https://twitter.com/rusfootballnews, I can try to support the page there if you want.
Reason number 2 for supporting the Grozny C&E Club: value for money! If this was a "project" by a local NGO, it would easily cost some $25,000 a year (and yet, it couldn't possibly be as dynamic and "real"). If any of the international players, a UN agency or big foreign NGO, tried to do "youth mobilization", your donation would also have to cover a share of office costs in NY or Brussels, fundraising consultants and big stacks of glossy reports that nobody will ever read etc. You can imagine what that would cost. And again, it wouldn't be anything near as genuine and effective and empowering for young people in Chechnya. So if you're inclined to support youth initiatives, freedom of speech, peacebuilding etc., this is definitely the most cost-effective way to do it. The added value of your dollars, euros, rubles will be immense. And if you cannot donate at this time, help us by sharing this with all your friends.
Reason number 1 for supporting the Grozny C&E Club: because freedom of speech and freedom of association are not abstract notions, they're personal. It's painful and upsetting when someone tries to take them away. In Chechnya today, especially for young people with no resources or power, there really aren't any spaces where they can talk about what they want, with whoever they want, dressed at they choose, play and do arts and experiment. People either want to censor them - or, once they realize what a brilliant, dynamic bunch they are, they want to "own" them, put their "brand" on them. So let's help the young people of the C&E Club have a home, a space where they can further develop their vision and share it with others. You have my word, this will be the most creative and lively space in all of Chechnya.