The Bohemia Corps modeled after the Peace Corps

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By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, June 23, 2001 - 7:41 am: Edit Post

The Bohemia Corps modeled after the Peace Corps

The Bohemia Corps modeled after the Peace Corps

The Bohemia Corps modeled after the Peace Corps

The Bohemia Corps and the role of women in NGOs

In attending high-level international conferences of the nongovemmental organization (NGO) sector, I find that I’m actually one of a small number of women participants. What is it that encourages women in the Czech Republic to start an NGO and run it for little or no salary, near constant bankruptcy, based simply on the idea of helping others who need their assistance?

In 1997, I was one of three female-founders of the Czech NGO, Bohemia Corps, which is based on (though not funded by) the US Peace Corps. The organization is focused on promoting volunteerism and helping organize projects related to this idea. This is something I had the privilege of learning during my 7-year Peace Corps experience, while working as the Associate Peace Corps’ Director for all the teaching programs within the Czech Republic. When the political decision to terminate the Peace Corps’ mission was announced, we decided to start our own Czech NGO with a similar mission.

Starting a Czech NGO after working for a US governmental organization isn’t easy, especially if you don’t have any foreign financial support or Czech contacts with a generous cash flow. My former male colleagues decided to take some ”more standard,” better paying jobs, especially after learning the financial situation of a typical Czech NGO: lack of funds, lack of funds, lack of funds. When I brought up the idea of establishing the Bohemia Corps, these male colleagues told me: first, make sure you have enough money to keep me in the office, then call me. My former female colleagues said: let’s try to find funding together, we know our mission and ideas are good, and if we try hard enough we will find the funds. And so the Bohemia Corps was born.

When the catastrophic Moravian floods came, there were three women working in the Bohemia Corps office, and many more members and supporters helping us over the weekends. We worked 12 hours a day, without pay, because sponsors were willing to pay for costs connected with the projects, but not for ”somebody’s salary.” The organizers of these relief efforts and the volunteers were expected to suffer; that was the reason why they volunteered to assist with the projects, wasn’t it? (an actual quote from one of the sponsors).

But we persevered, because we saw that our work in organizing volunteers’ groups was helping the flood victims. The same story applies to our work with unemployed young women and secondary school graduates, to our project on Tolerance and Respect in the country’s secondary schools, and to the efforts to establish the legal framework for volunteerism in the Czech Republic, connected with next year’s International Year of Volunteers.

The financial situation of starting an NGO has improved, and the general understanding of NGOs’ role in developing civil society in the Czech Republic is gradually changing. But it is the women who have stayed with the Bohemia Corps because of the ideas and goals of the work we do, and it is the men who have frequently brought more complication than solutions.

What I see as the director of a Czech NGO is that women generally work harder, more systematically, for less money, and with a deeper dedication to their work than men. They form good teams and can be very effective. I see a lot of very capable women around me in NGO world, who are not recognized for their hard work by the public, but are at times actually criticized and laughed at because of their dedication to their mission.

But there is one phenomenon I find particularly disheartening: once women do the hard part of setting up an organization and its structure, the men often arrive to take up positions as directors and managers. Moreover, women accepted such a move, because they felt that a male representative ”looks better” to the public than a female. Recently, during a very prestigious meeting, I overheard a comment made by a very influential Czech woman: ”I am so happy to see many more men here, because it means that our work is being taken much more seriously than any time before, otherwise men wouldn’t have come.”

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Czech Republic; Youth Organizations



By Denisa Siegfriedova ( on Friday, January 09, 2004 - 1:52 pm: Edit Post

Bohemia Corps is a FRAUD!
L.Horkova has no business being in charge of any NGO since her attitude is one of complete disinterest due to the fact that she is an old, cold, bitter, lonely spinster.
Avoid her and her corps like the plague.

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