Czechia has one of the best healthcare, the availability of quality care is extraordinary. However, the number of deaths on covid-19 signals internal conflicts and confusion. Instead of protecting the population, the Czech government protects hospitals; specialized institutions were not prepared for a pandemic and are not undergoing reform even after a year. Although we have little ability for the Czech government in the country, at the governmental and local level, the situation is different at the level of regional self-governments, which are relatively young and modern, divided into 14 regions and have their own financial resources. Here we can talk about a flexible and active approach according to real needs.
In addition to current Covid-19 situation in Czechia, since the beginning of Covid-19, infodemic has been really harmful to our society and it consists of fake news that has been spreading for last months on social media to manipulate people in a way that, for instance, the vaccines include extraordinary things that affect human minds and harm human body. Furthermore, before Covid-19, even in the EU, just before the Brexit Referendum, people were manipulated with the fake news about the EU and it showed us how dangerous fake news is. When we move our current times of period, we, as healthcare workers, fight not only against Covid-19 but also the infodemic. The infodemic also creates a gap among the people in Czech where we have some historical issues on how Czech people feel divided into two groups, whether they support the EU idea or not.
Half of the country longs for a pro-Western orientation, turns to the European institutions with confidence and participates in various commercial, educational or voluntary activities to build a common European house. The other half rejects the “dictates” of Brussels, does not orient itself and does not understand common European values. They nostalgically remember the intelligible world with the Iron Curtain East-West, they do not know who to orient themselves. The Czechia has become a breeding ground for trolls and fake news, it is extremely difficult to be reasonably oriented to feel integrated not only for young people, but also for educators who mediate the contexts of future productive life. Distrust of the establishment prevails among the citizens locked up in their homes. As our last workshop with medical school students showed – young people reject the euro (no one in the group of girls around 17 wants a euro), but they would like to live in Western countries (all girls).
Czechia is a country balancing the border between west and east. People in the Czech Republic are sensitive to manipulation and can bring useful sensitivity and dynamism to Europe. In principle, Europe can rely on the good intellectual and creative equipment of active Czechs, not only in the field of innovation, medicine or, for example, military competencies. At the political level, this is best seen, but let us not be confused, the tendency to underestimate or, conversely, to take precedence is taking place at all other levels. Extraordinary positive work in this regard is being done by European programs such as ERASMUS+, which mediate shared experiences, create new relationships across Europe and transform a sense of separation into feelings and experiences of community, equality and closeness. Mere tourism or sports matches are not enough. Learning from each other, spending time on a common topic in discussions, exchanges of views is essential. We see this in the example of the Wake UP project, of which Volunteering Matters is partner from the UK, where a team of young lecturers and mentoring representatives of organizations from eight countries cooperates intensively. Together, we are discovering new tools and shining into such important areas as European, active or informed citizenship. And above all, we go into practice, into direct cooperation with young people.
Notice the thousands of Czech volunteers who worked months of work in hospitals, in senior homes or helping lonely people in quarantine throughout the extraordinary year. It forms a strong, actionable and solidarity network with volunteers from European countries. They openly operate in regional volunteer centers or are involved in humanitarian organizations. These are people who do not need manipulation, but functional cooperation regardless of the size of the problem. They use their example to straighten the internal and external image of society.
According to what I demonstrated above related to how volunteers are crucial for fighting against both the infodemic and Covid-19, we want to have an accurate and inclusive volunteering law as well. I know that some of the countries have their own volunteering legislation, but in some other countries, volunteering does not have a legal basis. Therefore it is crucial to frankly frame that legal basis for volunteers. In the Czech Republic, volunteers have their law, but little government attention, and we want to change that.
Lenka Vonka Černá is the Chairwoman of the Czech National Volunteer Association and Board Director at Volonteurope