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Unitarian Community Fund

In partnership with the Székelyudvarhely Community Foundation (SzKA), Project Harvest Hope established the “Unitarian Community Fund,” a donor-advised fund that provides matching grants for projects proposed by organizations in Unitarian villages throughout the Homorod Valley.

Project photo gallery | Testimonials

Following the successful first round of funding in 2011, 15 new grants were awarded to rural communities in spring 2012 and 14 more in 2014. Two important elements in the selection criteria were that the project would incorporate local volunteers and would benefit the entire community.

Applicants were encouraged to collaborate with other community organization to accomplish their goals. SzKA monitored the progress of community projects, ensuring that they remained on track and budget. A final report was issued at the end of each grant cycle.

During three highly successful years of the Unitarian Community Fund, many village dreams came true. Projects large and small were tackled by enthusiastic volunteers who accomplished their goals, proving that a little goes a very long way in the villages of Transylvania.

Project Harvest Hope is currently transitioning to a new form of fundraising, while continuing to partner with SzKA. Look for the next phase of community development to begin soon.

View the 2013 Unitarian Community Fund Project Report (PDF)
View the 2012 Unitarian Community Fund Project Report (PDF)

Unitarian Community Fund 2013

The process for funding this year’s round of Unitarian Community Fund projects began in Spring 2013. Outreach to communities from our partner NGO in Transylvania, Székelyudvarhely Community Foundation includes the following description:

“A principal aim of the Fund is community building. For that reason, applicants must show a commitment to building local partnerships, involving local institutions, volunteers and providing some local resources. Involving partners and volunteers builds sustainability, ensures continuity and communications and helps SzKA determine if this idea is supported by the community. Additionally, applicants will be required to provide minimum 20% self contribution which can be a combination of materials and funds. Building the 20% self contribution ensures community buy-in and is an important part of ensuring commitment.”

We received many, many worthy applications, for a wide variety of projects. The 13 selected projects ranged from renovating community buildings and facilities to revitalizing traditional arts and crafts.

View the 2013 Project Summary (PDF)

2012 Project Summaries

Project Summaries

BencédRural life in a beautiful, organized, informative environment. With volunteer help, the villagers built and renewed two important public spaces in Benced.

CsekefalvaCommunity development for children and youth. Projects helped sustain two village programs: an Art and Handcrafts Bible camp for children and the Village Brass Band.

FirtosváraljaAdult education programs. The grant funded a series of educational presentations on history and traditions that were enhanced with new technology.

GS-EM-ODFIE (Erdély)Training of young rescue volunteers. This project revived the tradition of kaláka (voluntary community work) in rural communities through a one-week voluntary work camp and several kaláka occasions. The project also popularized the activities of the Transylvanian Rescue Team

GyepesTrainings for the local youth. The grant funded several courses in traditional activities including bee keeping, furniture painting and weaving.

HomoródkarácsonyfalvaMeeting and training for Romanian Community Assistants. The goal was to strengthen efforts to manage conflicts in communities between the Roma and non-Roma inhabitants.

IklandBuilding community through tradition. This project brought together the elders and youth of Ikland to build relationships between generations, pass on tradition and develop their Hungarian identity.

KénosThe rebirth of drying fruits. Volunteers renovated an old building, bringing in water and creating spaces for the entire fruit drying process.

KobátfalvaA playground for everyone. Volunteers realized their plans to build a playground for children in the community.

KorondExperimental handicraft workshop. Volunteers transformed a space where visitors, tourists, children and teachers can experience the traditional crafts of pottery and woodcarving.

MészköRenovation of the Balázs Ferenc Community Center. Volunteers completely restored the center, including installing electricity, water, windows, doors and floor, a new restroom, stove, electric heater and chimney.

NagymedesérPartial renovation of community house. Volunteers renovating the community house and organized a religious camp for children.

RecsenyédRenovating the community house. Volunteers converted the old cantor‘s house into a community house with a large meeting room, office, guestroom, kitchen and bathroom.

SzékelyderzsCreating a football field for the village! Volunteers got together to build a new soccer field to help boost the sports life in their village.

SzékelymuzsnaDeveloping the community place. Volunteers worked together to create an improved community meeting space in the old building near the church.

2011 Project Summaries

PHH Video

Project Summaries

Unitarian Church from Firtosvaralja — This isolated village had a van which helped transport elderly, sick individuals with disabilities and others to the nearest administrative center for medical treatment or to take care of paperwork. The old van has aged out of usefulness and the village has raised 60% of the costs for a new van. This grant will fund the remaining 40% and restore the service to the village. The driver of the van is a volunteer and the local government is a partner to cover the costs of petrol and upkeep.

Unitarian Church from Nyárádszereda — Begun in 2004, work on this community home is nearly complete. This last-dollar grant would finalize the space by bringing in electricity, drainage, heating and furnishing, as well as steps up to the front door. Interestingly, even without these amenities, the space is regularly used by the congregation during the summer months. Finishing would allow for a year-sound space and may leverage a local government grant to build a guest room in the attic. Once finished, the parsonage is committed to English, Romanian and bible lessons.

Unitarian Church from Firtosmartonos — The beautiful and ancient congregation hall in this village sits on a hillside. While offering a nice view, it is prone to serious water damage. The grant will fund a drainage system, insulate and tile the space. These renovations, and the replacement of doors and windows, would make the room useable throughout the year and a safer place to house books, computers, etc. for the community. Volunteers are committed to doing the labor and building new furniture.

Pro Gyepes Association — The village plans to create a park out of the space around the congregation house. Currently, there is no park in the village. The project proposed to landscape the space and add a small playground and arbor. In addition, the community has a strong youth club and has made significant investments in a computer lab. They plan to add a projector and foosball table (foosball tournaments are becoming quite popular here.)

Kis Herceg Association — Orphanages, or group homes for children in Romania, shelter children until the age of 18. Once 18, the youth enter the community but often are grossly unprepared for life, lacking employable skills. This project would renovate a space in a village group home where youth are being taught skills such as basic carpentry, bike mechanics, etc. The grant is a last-dollar investment to add heating and lighting to the room so that these socially marginalized youngsters have a option to learn trades from local craftspeople in a well lit and warm environment, thus extending the program through the winter months.

Dávid Ferenc Youth Association (ODFIE) — The small Unitarian village of Szind sits 3 km from one of the most popular natural attractions in Transylvania. The community is the stopping point for those wishing to walk into the nature reserve and a Unitarian youth group has been actively remodeling the parsonage to create a guesthouse and coffee shop, which can serve tourists with local products made by the village and bring income into the community. The group has already done considerable work over the last year, using the voluntary labor of more than 40 young people. This last-dollar investment would lead to the completion of the project in early summer.

Gyámszuloi Kozosseg Alapítvány — A vacant lot covered in rubble sits next to the local school and kindergarten. Children walk through it and play in it every day. The space is both unsafe and unattractive — an eyesore in the community. The project will bring together students, the local government, the church and parents to clear the rubble and landscape the approximately 1 acre of space into a small park and playground. After rubble is cleared by the local government, work will be done by parents and students. Ongoing maintenance is covered by the school.

Varosfalva Association — There is no public space for children or the elderly in this village. The project will renovate a schoolyard with the support of the locals. At this time, the schoolyard is the only public space, but it is unused due to lack of any facility or infrastructure — it is a dusty field. The project will work with local craftsmen to make benches and tables, buy a table tennis tale, and work with citizens to landscape the space. The result will be a centrally located green space in which youth can play and the elderly can rest on their way to church or the cemetery, or gather to be social. 20 volunteers have already committed and the grant will cover only things not available in the village.

“Pro Unitas” Association/Bozod — The congregation house in this village is a well-used space and historical point (being the birthplace of a famous individual). In the summers, the house hosts a camp for more than 40 youth and throughout the year serves as a meeting point for the congregation’s youth group, elderly, women’s association, etc. The house itself is adobe and is at risk of becoming unusable. The project seeks to repair the roof, floors and walls, with the support of local volunteers. Additionally, the funds will upgrade furniture damaged by interior floods in recent years.

Providence Association/Siménfalva — This village began a congregation house in 2008 but has been unable to complete the process. Currently they have walls, a roof, windows and electrical hook up, but they would like to finish the space with plumbing, heating furniture and lighting. The village will do the labor and the grant will cover items like radiators and insulation. The center will also serve as a place for services during the winter since it is a fairly large village and the church is u on a hill, making it difficult for the elderly to attend.

Ittre Benced Foundation — This application seeks to build on a successful local newspaper project by purchasing a higher quality printer, launching an online edition and upgrading hardware. The existing printer is aging and limiting in its abilities. Launching an online edition offers the opportunity to reach out to individuals from the village and seeks to engage them in the development of their home through education. In addition to higher quality on- and offline options, the project will add 1 laptop to the community vault to be used for associated projects, volunteers working on the paper, community events, etc.

Unitarian Church from Kalnok — Over the last four years, the Congregation House has been extensively renovated and improved. It is now a frequent meeting point for several village groups and hosts celebrations, clubs and informal gatherings. The grant will add a kitchen and toilet to the building. Currently it has outdoor plumbing and a stove in the main space. Bringing the plumbing indoors will make the space more comfortable in the winter and incorporating a separate kitchen will make the meal preparations less intrusive during events. In particular, bringing water into the space will make simple tasks like making coffee for the women’s club significantly easier than carrying it in from the well.

Unitarian church from Korispatak — A small church under renovation, the majority of men working abroad and few options for either formal or informal group meetings led this group to apply. The goal of the project is to renovate two rooms in the congregation house. One room would be used simply as a meeting room for the women’s club, be used for services during the winter (until the church is fixed), and for Sunday school. The other room would be used as a computer center. The villagers could thus communicate with their families abroad more easily, youth could learn computer skills with a local teacher, and farmers can receive information on European Union support programs.

Civitas — Building on support of the LDA network, this program seeks to engage 25 youth from 5 villages in the Odorhei region in designing and leading small projects. Each young person will benefit from meetings, trainings and team building before being supported in the creation of a small local project in their community. The youth will be partnered with LDAs to deliver their projects and will develop sustainability plans. This project has the potential to leverage larger funding from the European Union after demonstrating efficacy.

See projects in the photo gallery