24 June 2018

Our last visit in the Czech Republic was very different from the events in Ostrave and Prague.

We went to Hřebeny (Hartenberg), a small village near the border dividing the Czech Republic and Germany. The village harbors the castle Hartenberg,  The beautiful landscape contrasts with the name of the castle: Hartenberg means “hard rock” in German. In the past, the castle was besieged, captured, and plundered several times and its foundations were often shaken by local earthquake clusters. The castle burst into flames many times, with the last three fires in the years 1985–1991 gradually destroying the palace, court, and finally the tower. The castle has not recovered from that shock yet. (

We were welcomed by ESP (Environmentalni Socialni Podknik) Hartenberg, a social enterprise, that employs people who experience difficulties accessing the labour market. Their activities cover a wide range, from (re)construction of the castle, assisting in archaeological projects, cooking, housekeeping,…

The employees working there, receive a salary between 10.000 and 15.000 Cz Koruna (+/- 400-600 euro), but many of them are heavily indebted, and a huge part of the salary they receive is immediately garnished. Housing rents in the city are at least 10.000 Cz Koruna. Do your math and the urgency of decent minimum schemes couldn’t be more obvious.

The organisation receives funds from the European Social Fund (ESF) and from the government, but extra funds and support would be more than welcome. As Bedřich Loos, the project manager of ESP states it: ‘ we have a lot of activities, a lot of fun, a lot of work, a lot of friends, but not a lot of money.’

After a nice collective lunch, a presentation about the project, we shared info about our campaign, and people signed the bus and the petition. Not everybody knew how to write their names and address, but obviously people helped each other, so everybody could sign. Once again, meeting people and the challenges they are facing, the social exclusion they have to deal with, their daily struggles, challenges our perspectives and nourishes our ideas. A big thank you to our Czech colleagues for having given us this opportunity!

After the visit, #eminbus 1 headed home… Fortunately, we have 2 more events coming up: 26 June in Oostende and 28 June the Welcome Home Event in Brussels. Join us there!