Bence Pal has been working as an intern at the Habitat for Humanity Hungary since July 2013. First he supported the organization’s Donor Relation manager activities, and then he was responsible for grant writing. From the fall of 2014 Mr. Pal has started to assist the Habitat Resource Centers which operate in some Roma communities in Hungary. Their goals include advocacy and searching and sharing best practices to reduce housing poverty especially among minority communities.
At the Habitat for Humanity Mr.Pal witnessed the birth of the new strategy of an NGO that emphasized the situation of the Roma people in Hungary and the coping strategies through resolving their housing poverty issues built on the people’ – who experienced the program – will to act, and to their efforts to solve their own problems. (Habitat’s core approach is also more like to ‘teach to fish’ instead of just ‘giving a fish, in other words it involves actively the beneficiaries.)
Mr. Pal is also involved in the community organizing project of the Aurora Community House. The Aurora street and its neighborhood is a very diverse place with a lot of potential, but it is also a stigmatized area of Budapest. The community organizing team would like to unite the locals here, give them back a positive identity about themselves, strengthen their abilities to represent their self-interest, regarding different issues they may concern them, and also cooperate or/ and step up for the change towards the local decision makers.
Previously Mr. Pal was volunteering for the cause “Fair Trade” that has a common approach with community organizing. It builds on the inner resources of the people, so they can shape their own life by making their own decisions and efforts. He was promoting the cause itself in Hungary as well, and was volunteering at a Finnish NGO called “Uusi Tuuli” (New Wind) that supports indigenous people in Mexico, also by selling their coffee. Thanks to the opportunity Mr. Pal had a chance to meet oppressed people from India and Mexico as well who were trying to mobilize their inner resources also by producing goods by Fair Trade standards.
Mr. Pal continuously seeks opportunities where he could make a difference and help other people, therefore he was and is involved in many projects and causes in Hungary and abroad as well. His view is nowadays that it is achievable to make this world and Hungary a better place through strengthening small local communities, and by multiplying their experience that relevant changes are really possible. Shaking up small group of people, who lost hope, and shaping a community of them, giving back their faith in themselves by respecting their decisions, can make them believe again – or first time in their life – that they really can have an impact on their own lives.
Mr. Pal studied communication (journalism) and encountered with the diversity of the minority issues through his Finno-Ugric studies. (There are different minorities with different situations and different historic roots; therefore with different rights and levels of autonomy in countries where Finno-Ugric people live, from Norway through Baltics to Russian Federation.) He speaks fluent in English and has intermediate language skills in German, and beginning in Spanish.
Mr. Pal participated some of the community organizers training in Hungary that prepared him to his recent neighborhood organizing activities working with minorities in a poor neighborhood of Budapest. He also participated in a fundraising-training at the Foundation for Development of Democratic Rights (DEMNET Hungary) because he thinks that is crucial for NGOs, CSOs, and citizens in grassroots organizations to learn how to use different fundraising tools and methods to achieve their goals or obtain financial resources for their projects. He would like to see a development on this field in Hungary and see the increasing prestige of fundraising as an everyday activity and as a profession in Hungary as well.
Mr. Pal never traveled to the United States before. During the fellowship in the U.S., he would like to gain practical experience on community organizing basics, so he can do a better job in different organizations where he is currently involved including how to motivate people and to make them believe in themselves, how they can discover and use their own resources to build power in minority communities, how to raise funds in the community for causes that are not particularly popular.