Do you also have a personal connection to the project?
I will see: When I went to college, an organization organized a social innovation competition for college students with the aim of getting to know a target group that had a particular problem and coming up with a plan to solve the difficulties they faced. The project lasted ten months and the grand prize was an American flight. Csabi, Ákos and I were there to start and pass it.
In Szeged, we met disadvantaged youth at the School of Motivation. The first time was hard, we didn’t know what we were going for; But later they looked at us as acquaintances and gained their trust. They said their guides took them to the escape room and that the multi-graduate mentors team couldn’t get out, but the guys did! It was a great experience for them, so we started working on it as well. We have identified the problem that this target group has very little experience of success, especially in terms of learning, and there is little positive reinforcement in relation to it. This destroys their motivation in the long run, but they can finally feel successful in the escape room. We’re starting to plan how we can move the entire escape room experience to the kids who need it most. Ákos’ idea was to put the room in a tent that could be used on a mobile phone. At first we didn’t understand, should the escape room be in a small camping tent? But then we realized it could work with an event tent.
We’ve already made it to the finals of the competition with the idea of a Fortély Tent, but we haven’t even made it to the top four. In any case, we are determined to implement the project and show that it is a sustainable and good idea. We finished the first room for half a year.
Evelyn, when did you join?
evey: Akos and I became a couple in september 2015 and then the fortelli tent was already running. If the team had just settled in Pest, the others always slept with me, the apartment I lived in became a central location. We don’t know exactly when she switched from a property owner to a regular member, but then she started really well in the day-to-day running of the organization.
Tell us a little bit about tents. Is it thematic or variable?
I will see: We soon realized that if we wanted to be really mobile, an event tent wasn’t the most practical either. We’ve been to tent picnics a few times, but basically have a bunch of lockers full of all kinds of gear.
At first we invented slightly more general tasks, pushed the boundaries of the method, but we see that the game itself is a very good development tool, because we have to work in a team and communicate with each other. And at the end, there is always a processing circle where we talk about experiences together, aware of what they have learned in the room.
E (co) scape was our first themed game in which we showed children basic environmental awareness tips. The other room, created jointly with Erste Bank, is a financial awareness room aimed at learning the basics of finance. There is also the game Fortress Tent Jr. This hacked game has been invented for very young kids because they need different tasks than the older age group.
By the way, we also provide the game to companies on a profit basis so that we can finance the work of the enterprise: for example, we set up rooms for them on IT security keys and trains.
Where else do you visit the country besides the city school? Do you prefer to stay near a city with the necessary infrastructure, or have you moved to areas that are already living in extreme poverty?
evey: We were also in rural schools dealing with families living in extreme poverty. The living conditions of those who live there are so difficult that the conditions for healthy development are often not met. There is no sewage, no tap water, no electricity, and two or three generations live together in one room. The hardest part is that in school they are expected to perform as well as others. Often they do not have the necessary electronic devices, parents have to work hard, and older siblings have to take care of small devices. Moreover, children who are already disadvantaged do not even have a sense of success in education because they are not getting the learning skills they need. Basic conditions.
I will see: But we have already gone to orphanages and city schools. In schools, counselors hire children, and we join these programmes. There are places we go back to many times where as soon as they see us they immediately ask if we brought the escape game again.
As a teacher, I first learned about extreme poverty at university, but until I was there and saw the conditions in which children live in Hungary today, I had no idea what that really meant. For us, it’s a mirror that motivates us to really be kids for at least 45 minutes while the game goes on.
Can you remember a moment when it made sense to do the foundation work?
evey: My favorite was a little boy who didn’t even want to be involved in the game at first and then didn’t want to share the walkie-talkie (we communicate with kids through this if they need help) either. But as the game got resolved more and more, he started playing with the others, and already during the processing round, the conclusion was how well he could share what he had with others. It also shows that success is not only task solving, but also time spent indoors, teamwork is just as important.
I will see: It’s always been an incredible experience for me as well, to see how much they are so immersed in the game that we forget about us watching them through the cameras. In the end, the same question every time, “That was great, can we go back?”
The escape room experience immediately shows a positive impact within small teams. Have you received any feedback on how the game is played in children in the long term?
I will see: We are now working on a regular impact assessment. When we return regularly, comments that children are becoming more and more routine about solving tasks does not frighten the unknown.
We also took the latest money game to my class, from which I received a lot of positive feedback about how much they learned.
Thinking of games that address social issues such as racism, discrimination against people with disabilities, or mental health?
I will see: These topics are of more interest to the majority community, they should learn from them – integration from the other side will be necessary. For children, we tend to think about topics that affect their daily lives: In addition to environmental and financial awareness, IT security has always been at stake.
eveyA: We wouldn’t shy away from such a project in the future, but there will be a lot of pre- and post-production work, as bullying or mental health are topics that absolutely affect disadvantaged children too. However, talking about mental disorders, for example, requires more professionals and long-term support than our one-day program. If we rip a wound on a person locally, it must then be treated, for which the local assistants may not be prepared, or have the ability or power to treat it at all. However, our goal is to help, not make it more difficult.
As the pandemic subsides, kids can go back to school, and it might be easier to organize games together. What are your plans for the coming period?
I will seeTeam building programs are badly needed after the pandemic. There are still five or six locations left for this year, but summer is sure to be a very busy time. In the meantime, we’re working on an emerging project, rethinking the escape room methodology itself a bit to make the game easier for even more kids. We’re also expanding our capabilities, we’re also having new volunteers, and maybe the world is now starting to bounce back into some rhythm.
Our 1% tax campaign is very important to us so that we can fund the upcoming period as well. In any case, it is important that everyone has the right to give 1% of their taxes to the NGO with which they most agree in their aspirations. If someone has not decided yet and is looking for a good project, we are a very nice little organization and gratefully accept every 1%.
Author: Tamara Sebra-Keisler
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