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School of Traditions in Turov Will Work For the Future
On 24 March Turov, one of the most ancient towns in Belarus, hosted the session dedicated to the establishment of the School of Traditions «Land of Ancestors». The event was initiated by the UNDP Project «Development and Internalization of the National Sustainable Development Strategy Within the Context of the Republic of Belarus», the World Bank Country Office and the Turov Department of the Belarusian Center for Wild Nature Conservation. Among the participants of the roundtable were representatives of the non-governmental organizations, local authorities, Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection.
— The Polesye region is very specific, — said Inessa ZENINA who initiated the establishment of the School of Traditions.— Its nature is a kind of foundation on which most of the local dwellers build up their livelihoods. Unlike other regions of Belarus, industry is not well-developed here and the employment represents a serious concern. When last spring the participants of our initiative group who have been involved in environmental advocacy and ecological education of the Turov dwellers since 1997, learnt about the call for proposals within the Decentralized Development Marketplace organized by the World Bank, we decided to participate...
The project proposal for the establishment of the School of Traditions «Land of Ancestors», developed with the help of the Belarusian Environmental and Information Center for Wild Nature Conservation was among the six winners among all project proposals submitted by the Belarusian non-governmental organizations. The specific focus of the project is the establishment of collaboration between NGOs and local authorities with the support of the international organizations. The establishment of the School of Traditions is co-funded by the UNDP and the World Bank; counterpart support is provided by NGO «Protection of Belarus' Birds» which is one of the largest environmental non-governmental organizations in Belarus.
In the opinion of the project team, the establishment of the School of Traditions in Turov which will operate as an educational center for promoting sustainable development concepts will contribute to the restoration of the traditional nature management culture and will help in addressing social problems of local households through development of ecological and agricultural tourism in the Turov area which has a considerable potential for this. The School of Traditions will become a focal point for revival and development of the traditional handycrafts of the Polessye region including weaving, withe netting, pottery making, embroidery and others. Only natural materials – wood, clay, withe and straw - will be used for making household goods and interior decoration articles.
— The Turov region is one of the few places in Belarus with well-developed handycraft traditions, — says Inessa Zenina. — There are enthusiasts here - elderly people – who remember the techniques and who have the appropriate skills in craftsmanship and there are also young people who are genuinely interested in it. At present there's a focal group consisting of 56 dwellers of the Turov region who have craftsmanship skills and who are willing to cooperate with the School of Traditions.
We would like our center to have a separate building with a plot of land designed as a traditional scenery of Polessye. There will be studios for revival of homecrafts. Everybody can come and start mastering the appropriate skills. People who will get trained here in homecraft business can then open their own studios, for example in Turov. We expect, however, that our focus group will be young people, especially children. The School of Traditions will also provide premises for conferences, exhibitions and workshops as so far there are no relevant premises for organizing such events in our town.
The center of folk traditions will have a video library offering materials on environmental issues – the collection of such materials has long been started. Another component of the center is a land plot - the so-called «green garden» - for demonstration and organization of practical training in ecologically safe agricultural technologies, where one can get acquainted with the technique of cultivating the long forgotten but traditional for this area crops (such as flax).
Revival of traditions is hardly possible without the study of the region where these traditions originated. The «Land of Ancestors» is expected to become the center of local studies: the Turov dwellers are already trying to establish contacts with the relevant specialists including ethnographers, historians, ecologists and others. It is also intended to publish brochures, booklets and postcards to contribute to restoration of the historic and cultural monuments and to promote the Turov region among the tourists.
— Not far from Turov there’s a picturesque meadow where rare birds build their nests, — said Inesssa Zenina. — Ornithologists have been working here for several years already; ecological tourists who are interested in bird life also come to see this place. Unfortunately, there’s no relevant infrastructure, there’s no decent hotel in Turov to accommodate the guests. Therefore I strongly believe that the School of Traditions cannot exist without involvement and feasible support from the local authorities and self-governance bodies. From our part we are ready to collaborate with various non-governmental organizations and government institutions for the mutual benefit and for the future of the Turov region.
On the first Sunday of September the ancient Turov will host (for the second time already) the festivities on the occasion of the Day of the Belarusian Written Language. The local authorities promise to renovate the hotel by that time. The School of Traditions «Land of Ancestors» will probably open its doors for visitors because just after the roundtable held on 24 March the district authorities finally decided to transfer the former administrative building of the collective farm to the School of Traditions with a small land plot attached to it. The costs of refurbishment will be included in the rent.
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