Belgium-based NGO ‘Toestand’ has helped to build several temporary and autonomous sociocultural centers. They did this by collectively helping to reactivate empty buildings and forgotten spaces, both locally (in Belgium) and internationally. For several years, their international projects have been intentionally concentrated in environments where the (cultural) needs and interests of youth are being neglected. Where there are no accessible spaces for youngsters to create and perform their identity, be it artistic or cultural. The aim of this organization is to push these youths towards urban and civil exchange through community making. Central points are reflection and making a change, along with dialogue, creation, autonomy and action.
TOESTAND (Brussels, Belgium) Toestand is a bilingual Brussels non-profit organization, specialized in temporary use of space. The non-profit organization was founded in 2012 by a group of young committed Brussels residents. In a few years, we grew into an established organization that currently (2020) employs thirteen part-time employees, spread over five projects. In addition to our permanent employees, we can count on an extensive network of partners and volunteers who make our dream come true with us every day.
DKC Sarajevo (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina) In August 2021 the international project implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina brought together Toestand, Termokiss, SCS Tetova and Uzina who were joined by a group of local volunteers. This initiated the formation of Social-cultural centre Sarajevo (locally known as Društveno-kulturni centar Sarajevo or DKC in short). DKC Sarajevo consists of a group of volunteers gathered around the idea of renovating and reviving abandoned city buildings and public spaces for the needs of the local community. The center serves as a meeting place for ideas based on the principle „for everyone, by everyone“ where we organize activities related to the promotion of countercultural practices and art. Sarajevo deserves an independent social-cultural space in which we will usefully spend our time, and develop initiatives and projects of wider social and cultural significance.
TERMOKISS (Prishtinë, Kosovë) After revitalizing an abandoned and forgotten building in 2016, together with Toestand and the local people of Prishtina, “Termokiss” social center is open to a range of activities, which can be linked only by being non-for-profit and educative. Activities and organizing processes are managed by the community. The offered activities are determined by both the needs of the community and the skills which the volunteers have to offer. The space works to promote the ideas of mutual aid and cooperation. Providing a welcoming space for everyone, including those whose voices and contributions are not always heard or appreciated, is a top priority for us.
SPACE TETOVA (Tetova, North Macedonia) Social Cultural Space Tetova started after a visit to Termokiss and an email exchange with Toestand. In 2018, youngsters from Prishtina and Switzerland joined the Belgian crew and the local people of Tetova in reviving an abandoned radio station into a social-cultural center, together with an outdoor space into a skatepark. We are a community of independent people who interact, create and cultivate the natural human culture of functioning in equality.
UZINA (Tirana, Albania) Uzina brought together Toestand, Termokiss and SCS Tetova, in 2019 Tirana. Uzina involves local people coming together to identify and work on issues that matter most to them. Everything we do or initiate is based upon a community-led approach. Uzina is dynamic, intense, vibrant, and a little loud. The activities and events that occur in the center are run by different people for different audiences. The range of events reflects local needs and may be delivered by locals, other organizations, volunteers, etc. We make use of good ideas and resources by utilizing the potential of individuals in this community. We’re continuously fostering an environment of acceptance and compassion. This is a space where individuals, especially youngsters, can fully be/explore themselves through discussions, by challenging thoughts, and activities that encourage interdisciplinary learning.
These centres and communities initiated their activities replicating parts of the idea of the Belgium social space called Allee Du Kaai, built by Toestand, but continue their survival through a mix of an introductory idea of what community means to them and the inevitable local cultures/traditions that make this concept. The four communities have now created a partnership and have formed a network, which will allow them to participate together in future projects.
This summer, we are going to Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) for a fortnight to transform an empty building into a socio-cultural meeting place for young people, in association with international and local partners and volunteers. To achieve this, we need your support!