This profile was prepared when Ryszard Golec was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Ryszard Golec is the first person in Poland to develop a program designed specifically to address the problem of alcoholism in rural communities. According to Ryszard, "The true challenge is to reach the smallest villages, where little is being done in regard to alcohol dependency." Ryszard believes that alcohol abuse is one of the reasons for the dramatic development gap that exists between urban and rural Poland. To address this problem, Ryszard has found a way to penetrate the normally very closed local communities by using the two most respected institutions within a village - the local church and the local school.Ryszard and his colleagues make their initial appeal to the family and friends of villagers with a drinking problem and help those fellow community members to form their own self-help groups. Ryszard provides them with the support and guidance they need until they become self-sufficient and self-sustaining. They then work from inside the village to motivate the village's alcoholics to form groups. The leaders that emerge through the process are then asked to help spread this technique to other villages nearby.