Aim High Association

Aim High consists of young people willing to change something in their surroundings. The Mission of Aim High is to promote young people, increase their self-confidence and help them reach for their dreams and take their own actions aimed to help other young people. The organization focuses mostly on youth coming from disadvantaged environments ? small towns and villages in Poland as well as in other parts of the world. We believe that everyone can take full charge of their life and lead it the way he/she wants to. We work mostly with active methods ? workshops and trainings. We teach leadership skills, creating and carrying out social projects, communication and group building. Aim High uses juggling and other circus activities as a metaphor of reaching the goal step by step. We try to show to young people that even things that seem to be impossible at first, can be achieved with a little faith, effort and persistence.

In India, Sasha Kiessling and Marta Kaszubska, invented and implemented a project for young, tribal girls being the first generation who go to school. ?Girls Can!? is a women empowerment programme which aims are to build self confidence and leadership skills among girls in order to promote gender equality. We are also doing the ?Girls Can? project in two Polish small towns: Garwolin and Włodawa.

In Poland we are leading an year long internet ?Academy for Young Leaders?. It is an innovative online course for youth who would like to start their own actions and projects in social field. The parlour Academy is being implemented in USA.
We are also getting involved in many actions. We are doing spontaneous juggling workshops for the street children who come from the poorest parts of Warsaw.

We are open to work with other youth who are willing to organize workshops and events for others. If you want to join us please contact: marta@mierzwysoko.org.pl

Abouth the Youth Centre at Brzeska Street in Warsaw ? project for marginalized youth

History

The Youth Club started out as a street project in may 2007 on Brzeska Street. This street was one of the areas in Praga District that had to deal with a bad reputation. It was said to be a dangerous place where a lot of social problems occurred. A few young social pedagogues decided to do something about this situation. Together with over 40 volunteers, they approached the children hanging around on the street. They played games with them, taught them circus tricks and organised social actions together. The local city government finaced this project. As winter arrived it became difficult to continue this operation, as it was freezing outside and most of the children preferred to stay inside. The group of kids that kept coming were obviously those who needed it the most and didn?t have a worm family situation to come home to.

Eventually, the city donated a house to Mierz Wysoko in 20 Brzeska Street. Thanks to found by sponsors the place was renovated and opened its door in December 2007.

To make the work easier the group of children were divided into smaller groups. That is how 7 different groups were born. Each groups is guided by 2 pedagogues and consist of only 4-7 children, to insure an each young person gets individual attention. Different activities take place: taking them on trips outside of the neighbourhood, doing arts and crafts, theatre projects, making a movie, preparing of a fire show etc?Next to that there is individual coaching set up for those kids who need it and volunteers help them with their homework once a week.

In July 2008 the club organised it?s first street event. Children showed the results of their projects to their parents and neighbours and hip hop and breakdance artists performed. This event became a tradition in Brzeska. In the same year the girls in the club started the project ?dance out our dreams? throught which they could try different genres of dance and improved their dancing skills. The project was ended successfully with a weekend trip and their dance performance. In the meantime, the club also tries to cooperate with parents, schools and other non-governmental organisations.

In 2009 the club became more structured and meeting were held regularly. Brzeska got a 3-year funding from the city district and organised their first charity auction for wich their cooperated with another foundation (PROJAN Foundation). It was held in a popular club and famous artist were present.

In 2010 the club continues its regular group meeting and organises more community activities. This year ?making Brzeska green? engages children, parents and neighbours to think about the future of their street. The inhabitants of Brzeska created small gardens in their street, meet the architect to plan the future of their neighbourhood and played an urban game together. The project is financed by PTC ERA and HENKEL.

Background of the kids

Our youth club is situated in Brzeska street in Praga. This district of Warsaw contains several underdeveloped neighbourhoods and unfortunately Brzeska is one of them. Recently Praga is starting to be more popular amongst Warsaw society. Artist and students there and clubs, bars, ateliers and galleries open their doors. In spite of that the situation of the locals didn?t change much.

The children the youth club works with are mostly living in Brzeska street. Some of them live in neighbouring streets or have relatives living on Brzeska. Generally their behaviour is not so easy to deal with and they don?t fit in to other youth organisations that are more structured.

These children grow up in a hard environment. We see their behaviour as a reaction to the surrounding they have to cope with. Their families often deal with situations as alcohol abuse, unemployment or criminality and can?t offer the support a child needs.

The kids hang out on the street, even untile late at night, and some are involved in small crimes like vandalism or shop lifting. They start experimenting with smoking and drinking at an early age and get addicted soon. Many have problems in school and some of them drop out. In general they are often discouraged to go to school. Emotional problems can be observed through their sometimes aggressive behaviour and low self esteem.

Through the clubs activities the children gain more self confidence and interests in different activities. They recognise their own strengths and learn how to work together in a group. It opens their minds trying new things and guidance of adults. Their relationships with others like family, friends or teachers improves. Some of the kids do better at school because of the support they get from the youth club. There is a big change in their behaviour noticeable in how they act towards the club. They try their best to follow the rules we set up together, they feel responsible for the clubs materials, they treat their pedagogues with more respect and are more reliable. We also see that they use less physical and psychological aggression towards each other.

Ongoing activities

The core business of the club is group therapy in five different groups according to age and sex. They meet twice a week and participate in a large variety of activities, from stilt walking or making arts and crafts to going to a restaurant. During this meetings we work on the kids emotions, anger and self confidence. They can out emotions that are usually ignored. Through spending time together in a group they get support from their pedagogues and each other and share their problems, worries and fears. Kids learn that they are not alone and that they can help each other out. They learn to fight their fears and handle difficult situations. By the support they get from peers and by working on their talents they feel more self confident and capable of taking their life in their own hands.

The youth club also reaches out its hand to the local community. This year we got kids, parents and other inhabitants together to think about the future of their neighbourhood. The first step was to ?let?s make Brzeska green? by creating little gardens on the courtyards of the street. During a walk with architect Kuba Tolak and city guide Honorata Stafiej inhabitants discussed the past and the future of Brzeska. To top it all they made a huge panoramic fotocollage of the Brzeska of their dreams. The projects ends on 27 march with an exihibiton and a party in a Café around the corner ? ?Czarny Motyl?.

Partners and sponsors

Mierz Wysoko puts a lot of effort in networking and cooperates with various other organisations. The association gets alot of support from partners and sponsors, not only financially.

We have a good relationship with the local government that also supports the club through engaging pedagogues in different project and through direct financial support.

The club wouldn?t be the same without the cooperation of artists and experts such as vlep[v]net (streetart artists), Kuba Tolak, Honorata Stafiej (city guide) and Dobromir Makowski (hip hop artist) . The club cooperated with vlep[v]net on the project ?Kulturalna Brzeska? where the kids made a mural on the walls and decorated the street with graffiti. Honorata created several interactive urban games for our kids and is there to help with other workshops? as well. Kuba, architecture student, did photocollage workshops and an art recycling workshop for our project ?Let?s make Brzeska green?. Kamil Dziliński (juggling artist) performed for the Club during the charity auction and is coming to do juggling classes. Dobromir Makowski spend long hours on preparing Dominik (one of the teenagers) to prepare, sing, record and perform his first own song.

There are several people we invite to do performances or create workshops. Also we count on a big group of devoted volunteers.

We are networking with other local NGO?s like: REMUS Theatre local theatre who invites club participants to perform. Serduszko dla Dzieci (youth centre) and GPAS (an assossiation of streetworkers) with whom we exchange ideas for projects, exchange experiences, support each other in our work and try to promote good praciticies. Praktycy Kultury (a cultural non-profit organization) who are our mentors in stilt walking. Liceum Humanistyczne im. Jacka Kuronia (a Private Hight School) who together with us is coming up with a project to try to end discrimination and marginalization of social groups. Highschoolers are coming now for a year, every week to help Club participants in their homework. We should not forget about PROJAN Fundation- they helped to organize, finance and promote our first Charity auction.

The association works together with several companies as well. In Dance School Salsa Libre kids are getting free capoeira lessons every week with a private teacher working especially for them. The dance school is also trying to support the club financially ? though encouraging their clients to make small payments for the club. Our other partner is 2wieże ? Two Towers Extreme Sport?s Centre.The centre offers us reduced prices for climbing so we can visit them often with our groups.

Some of the organizations help us financially, like Henkel, Orange, PTC ERA.

Methods

Our main method is group therapy (socjoterapia), it is practiced in Poland since the 80?s.
This method consists of a group and the process they go through. The groups undergo different phases and situations. By discussing with their members behaviours, feelings and things that occur in the group, children see what their behaviour does to their surrounding and learn how to deal with their emotions in different ways. Through group therapy children see their own talents and competences and develop their selfconfidence and ?consciousness. Children are empowered, they feel that they have the power to achieve something and they can influence their lives.

We are doing social pedagogy. We try to change childrens behaviour by gaining their confidence, building a relationship of trust and being role models for them. We let them be themselves, that is why we don?t discipline them too much, though there are rules they have to respect. We try to open their eyes to how other people live by taking them on trips and they can meet another world. If they misbehave we wait others correct them this way we can be their support and allies, and kids still can learn social rules.

We work with different youth projects because it teaches children how to set up goals and be persistent in achieving them. Discouragement and patience are very important in this. We want them too feel that by taking little steps you can get there, even if you get disappointed on the way. These projects also teach them other things like how to cooperate or how to organise and plan. The results of these projects for instance a theatre piece, a film, a photo exhibition or a dance performance shows them that they can do valuable things. Presenting outcomes to the audience make kids proud and helps them gain self-confidence.

We also focus on social projects and community activities. This way we want to build feelings of responsibility for their community that kids are missing at the moment. Show them that they can perform positive activities and that their voice can be heard. That they can give, not always to take. It also shows the community a positive side of the youth that have to fight with their bad image.