Global Conference in Prague, 2023 Reporter's Notebook Top Travel

Leaving a little bit of YJI in Prague, for a good cause

PRAGUE – Reporters from Youth Journalism International picked up paintbrushes and joined together in an inspiring endeavor during the organization’s 2023 Global Conference in Prague – painting bricks in support of charity.

Viktorie Goldmannová/YJI Click on the image to see more ‘Postcards from Prague.’

This colorful initiative, aptly named the “Beneficial Brick,” was part of a nationwide fundraising and awareness campaign in Czechia that has been supporting people with special needs, particularly those with mental disabilities, since 2000. 

In two teams, these friends from a dozen different countries embarked on a mission to leave a lasting mark of YJI’s presence in Prague. 

The first team opted for a colorful, dotted YJI brick, complete with a link to the organization’s website. 

The finished bricks arranged in a large display in Wenceslas Square in the center of Prague. (Anjola Fashawe/YJI)

YJI students wore aprons like true artists and dipped their hands in an array of paint colors, discovering that creativity knows no bounds. 

With limited paint options, they had to put their knowledge of color theory to the test to create a new palette.

YJI members shared paints democratically, a sly nod to their journalism roots. 

One group of YJI painters with their blank canvas. From left: Viktorie Goldmannová, Lyat Melese, Anjola Fashawe, Regina López, Holly Hostettler-Davies, Norah Springborn and Arooj Khalid. (YJI photo)

But the second team used the opportunity to embrace their geographic roots, painting their respective national flags and making the most of every inch of the brick canvas. 

YJI painters who put their national flags on their brick. In the image on the left, Ana Fadul, Erin Timur and Joanne Yau. On the right, Ana Fadul, Joanne Yau and Anne van Mill.

Despite this, painting the bricks wasn’t a competition, but a heartwarming and creative opportunity in Prague. It was a chance for young journalists to put their creativity to the test while bonding with their peers from around the world. 

A student paints on the YJI brick. (Anjola Fashawe/YJI)

The bricks, adorned with vivid colors, became the canvas for these budding artists to express their creativity. 

It was an inspiring opportunity for the young journalists to connect with a cause that transcended borders. Together, these writers demonstrated that their creativity extends beyond the written word.

Other bricks in the display were painted with powerful messages, like the “Freedom of Speech” brick and the “Mental Health Matters” brick. 

One could only marvel at the structural integrity of the bricks, wondering whether some sort of magical super glue held them together.

Yet the true beauty of this occasion was the diversity it represented.

A brick painted by YJI students that depict the national flags of the Netherlands, Colombia, Türkiye, Cyprus, Bangladesh and Hong Kong. (Anjola Fashawe/YJI)

The bricks were a global mosaic, with national flags, pride flags and even a nod to Czech literary giant Franz Kafka with a “Metamorphosis” inspired brick. 

It was a testament to the international reach of the fundraiser, with bricks from various countries such as Brazil, Turkey, Switzerland, the UAE, Italy, and many more. 

For some YJI members, it was a delightful surprise to spot their own names on others’ bricks, but spelled differently, offering a quirky twist to the creative process. 

From words of affirmation to depictions of favorite bands and declarations of love, these bricks became a symbol of unity and support for a noble cause.

YJI’s Ana Fadul and Anne van Mill look at the many bricks on display. (YJI photo)

In the end, the “Beneficial Brick” project was more than just a painting activity; it was a testament to the power of people coming together to make a difference. 

Three hundred thousand bricks have been painted as a result with each one contributing to the support of 54 facilities where individuals with special needs can work and live with dignity, according to information displayed at the site. 

One of the YJI bricks on display. (Anjola Fashawe/YJI)

Portus Praha – a non-governmental organization with the motto, “Portus Praha is a haven for people with intellectual disabilities to live in dignity, to work and develop, and live freely together with others” – orchestrated the campaign.

These bricks, adorned with stories, colors and messages, will not only serve as a source of inspiration for those who visit Prague, but will also stand as a symbol of YJI’s commitment to making the world a brighter place, brick by colorful brick.

Anjola Fashawe is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International from London.

Some of the students who painted the bricks display the YJI hand signals, which also are signs for “peace” and “love.” From left are Holly Hostettler-Davies, Lyat Melese, Viktorie Goldmannová, the author Anjola Fashawe and Norah Springborn. (YJI photo)

Read more from YJI’s ‘Postcards from Prague’ series about the 2023 Global Conference.

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