Aureliusz Lezenski

Ashoka Fellow
Poland
Fellow Since 2007

Citation

This profile was prepared when Aureliusz Lezenski was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Aureliusz is empowering youth from foster care institutions and families to successfully transition from institutional care to independent living. He is doing so through a system of self-sustaining activities, separate from foster care institutions, to provide young adults with the necessary education for entering adult life. Through “Vehicles for Independence” and “Assistants for Independence,” young adults learn communication skills, practical knowledge like personal finance and computers, public speaking, make contacts with business entrepreneurs, and are provided with individual psychological support where needed. His program has been reshaped and today five Vehicles operate as autonomous centers. Each site has fifteen Robinsons. Since the beginning of the program in 2002, 250 to 300 Robinsons have become independent.
Aureliusz works within the community—with local municipality, business entrepreneurs, social workers and citizens—to persuade them to take responsibility for educating and supporting foster youth and provide them with the same opportunities as other children. Aureliusz proves it is in the community’s best interest to invest time in foster children who may otherwise become a burden to society—socially excluded, helpless, and dependent on social aid. Citizen members take ownership of his program and co-responsibility for its functioning, ensuring its financial and institutional stability.
Aureliusz often refers to the Robinson Crusoe story of solitude and abandonment. Foster youth struggle with the same feelings of abandonment, and unlike other children, do not have the pillar of support from immediate family. All participants in the program are ‘Robinsons.’ They are changing the stigma and developing into confident, entrepreneurial, and socially adjusted adults. Using existing legislation, Aureliusz advocates for national standards to provide systemic support for youth from foster institutions and creates incentives for others to invest in their potential. His advocacy efforts and media campaign will assure replication of the idea in other municipalities across the country and beyond.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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