Country, Date of election
Andrzej Augustynski is transforming after-school education and social welfare through a system of urban facilities for at-risk children and marginalized youth. His “Siemacha Centres” help youth regain their social skills and self-confidence by encouraging initiative and leadership.
Children at risk in Poland live in hardship ridden urban settings, spend most of their time without supervision and are vulnerable to negative influences. Their households are not secure environments for personal development, but often expose them to alcoholism and domestic violence. Without stable social relationships, these young people increasingly turn to the Internet to develop “virtual” relationships. These friendships fail to provide opportunities to develop the social skills needed in real life. In the absence of strong relationships, a supportive family, or positive role models, youth are prone to engage in criminal and other perilous activities.
After over 20 years of activity Andrzej runs a wide network of 24 facilities and sport centers and his program operates in 30 localities in Poland. Daily 1500 youth attend care centers. Each month 1000 therapeutic conversations are held and education and physical development activities are provided for 25.000 young people. In addition Andrzej opened: 2 family homes which are available for 100 young people and children needing overnight care; the Krakowski Training Institute, which aims to increase the number of professionally run after-school facilities; and also the Com-Com Zone Development Centre - its unique formula combining sport, education and care.
Andrzej’s model is based on peer group settings, where youth participate in programs they themselves direct which offer diverse opportunities for personal growth. These groups help youth and children regain their social skills and self-confidence through empowerment and leadership opportunities. In this way, young people are molded into creative and active leaders who then staff the next wave of Andrzej’s centers. He engages youth in a series of educational, athletic, and cultural activities otherwise available only to youth and children from privileged backgrounds.
By 2020 the Siemacha Association wants to become the largest and best-functioning public benefit organization providing systematic aid to children and youth in Poland. Their ambition is to create a national network of modern facilities SIEMACHA Spot. They are developing a pioneering project in the world: „SIEMACHA in shopping malls“ an appeal for social space in commercial areas. They also want to provide more and more places where qualified therapists of the Krakowski Training Institute could give psychological help free of charge.
Andrzej grew up in a supportive family with caring parents. This made him all the more ready to reach out to children coming from different backgrounds—especially those from broken or unstable families. His teenage years were full of historic moments for the Polish people – Pope John Paul II, a symbol and powerful force for political transformation and Czesław Miłosz who received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Andrzej, inspired by his early experiences volunteering in an orphanage, decided to address the problems of marginalized youth and at-risk children