András Szabó

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2001
Kapocs Youth Self-help Service


This profile was prepared when András Szabó was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2001.
The New Idea
András is helping young people who are in trouble turn their lives around through a program of volunteering and peer mentoring. In 1992 András established Kapocs Youth Self-Help Services as a means of early prevention and community building. The Kapocs method is unique, as peer volunteers actively seek out at-risk youth, rather than waiting for them to get into trouble with authorities. By creating a natural, comfortable environment where young people can bond, the peer network takes the place of traditional preaching about important issues like drugs and violence, thus opening doors for more effective communication. Young people involved with Kapocs are able to access tools and develop strategies that allow them to solve their own problems.

András offers his programs and services in an attractive venue. "Culture houses"–once state-run community centers used during the Communist era–are now underused public spaces that attract groups of teenagers. By working from the culture houses, András is able to reach young people in their own environment where they are more comfortable and receptive to his message. The centers have evolved into places where homeless, drug-addicted, or simply neglected youth can meet and overcome many of their problems in a supportive environment. Children, teenagers, and young adults find everything from emergency medical assistance to peer counseling to job training. Also, to build their sense of self-worth and reconnect with society, participants create and manage volunteer service programs.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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