Ewa Smuk Stratenwerth


This profile was prepared when Ewa Smuk Stratenwerth was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2000.
The New Idea
Through education and economic empowerment, Ewa's work addresses the enormous divide between rural and urban communities in Poland. Her educational efforts encompass social, cultural, economic, and environmental programs that seek to erase stereotypes, foster mutual respect, instill self-esteem, and empower both children and adults to enter the economic mainstream. Urban children travel to the country to get hands-on experience of different aspects of rural life through the activities and programs she has engineered. These include feeding livestock, milking cows and goats, making bread, dipping candles, and better understanding the biology of composting. They also include broader discussions of the importance of environmental protection and the practice of conservation.
Ewa trains family farmers to become part-time teachers in this program, teaching them that the everyday resources of the farm can become new assets when they are used as materials in children's education. Furthermore, Ewa has arranged for urban schools to pay for these educational trips, and the revenue helps modernize struggling rural educational facilities by providing better language and computer training to rural children. Finally, in bringing a flow of urban children and their parents to rural areas, in generating interest in rural ways of life, in turning farmers into educators, Ewa is helping transform the self-conceptions of down-and-out rural communities. Jobs are created for traditional artisans who market goods to visitors. The market for organic farm products is broadened, which helps generate revenue for rural farmers. The skills and knowledge that inhere in rural communities are made useful to urban Poland, and the rural/urban divide is narrowed.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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