All the protagonists of this year`s stories are people who proved that IT CAN BE DONE! And people who transformed their daring plans into impactful projects.
We invite you to discover their stories, to team up with them and to become one of the collective author to the common good, through your recommendations and encouragement!
Poppa Ion, ”an Oltenian from Craiova”, as he presents himself, is 64 and has been making wooden spoons – ”for lard, tomato juice, comfiture, whatever people want” – ever since we has 14.
”We`ve always made spoons in my family, from father to son. I don`t think I`ll pass it over though – kids don`t like it any more. I have grandsons. If they want to learn, fine. If they don`t, peace on them!”, says poppa Ion, a ”rudar” (Roma spoon maker) born in Spanţov, while he sculpts an unfinished spoon, to make its ”eyehole” (the cup of the spoon).
The PACT Foundation (Partnership for Community Action and Transformation) – won financing of up to 15,000 Euro for the project ”Spanțov Masters” at the 2013 edition of the community project contest ”Ideas from Andrei`s Country”, organized by Petrom – wants to encourage poppa Ion`s grandsons and other youngsters in the community made of 40% Roma ethnics to learnd the spoon maker trade. This is the prime goal of the project carried out by PACT through the Community Development Association ”Together for the Future”. After that, the project will be supported and transformed into a social business in the field of manual wood processing by five Roma skilled spoon makers from Spanțov, their trade will be promoted and the retail market for the end products will be consolidated.
”On March 1st, we met with the young people in the community and with three of the masters, and we discussed what the plan was, what part each of them can play in the project, and how youngsters may get involved – some in manufacturing, others in brand development, promotion, item decoration. The meeting took place in the old building of the school in Clinciu village, Spanțov commune”, says Irina Pop, project manager of PACT.
Two weeks later, on March 15th, the first workshop was organized in poppa Ion`s yard. ”Three of the masters involved in the project – two elderly one and an apprentice – made chairs and spoons, explained each stage of the process, and showed the tools they work with” says Irina Pop, who took part in the workshop together with her co-worker Mădălina Ene, designer Ruxi Sacalis and cultural patrimony specialist Gențiana Albota. ”During the second part of the workshop, Gențiana worked with youngsters in the community to decorate spoons made by the masters, while us and Ruxi Sacalis talked to the masters about the products, the tools and the raw materials.”
Talking about tools – they are not that easy to find.
”We had difficulties procuring the tools for the masters, because some of them are not available to buy in stores, and the masters inherited them from their parents or grandparents. We are looking for tools from other elderly villagers who no longer use them, and we try to buy them. If we can`t find the tools, we might order them made from specialized ironsmiths”, says Irina Pop.
”We will travel to Spanțov with a specialized accountant from Bucharest, coopted as a project volunteer, in order to talk to the girls from the Spanțov association and their accountant from Oltenița about issues concerning types of expenses, generating income and so on”, Irina Pop explains.
However, raw materials, tools or design alone do not guarantee the success of the project, unless they are complemented by the adequate financial and entrepreneurial activities.
Hence, all the ingredients for a successful social business are readily available. They just need to be combined into the right mix – and Spanțov masters have just the right tool for it: the wooden spoon.
”Spanțov masters” is one of the 21 community projects that won financing for implementation in ”Ideas from Andrei’s Country” competition, 2013 edition. Discover all the winning projects here.
Romano ButiQ Association President
Wood sculptors have an incredible story in and of itself. They are ”Rudar” (makers of wooden spoons and other wooden items) - neither Roma, nor Romanians (ethnically speaking). Rudar. Some say they are the descendants of the free Dacians – others, a Balkan group of rural dwellers. But they debuted as mineworkers! The word ”rudar” comes from the Slavic ”rudă” – a mineworker. They were slaves, which caused the confusion. All slaves, irrespective of ethnic descent, were called gypsies (including tartars or other groups). We already have a subject to wonder about – who are these people?
The Rudar trade changed – there weren`t always wood sculptors. They gave up searching for ”gold” because of lack of ”resources”, took on woodwork, and are now on the verge of giving up, since there is no market for it. The Rudar see their craft as a ritual. Before ”sacrificing” a tree, they used to ask for its forgiveness through a procession (which deserves a place in the cultural patrimony) etc. – what do these people do?
”The Lamb`s Thought” is a ritual unique to the Rudar, related to the Balkan ”Gurban” ritual, for hope of prosperity, good health etc. – what to these people believe in?
As far as the Rudar are concerned, we have a lot to communicate, a lot to welcome into our cultural patrimony, and a lot to appreciate!