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Free courses for equal opportunities for hobbies

The first ideas are collected and stencils are cut out, then the kids reach for the spray cans – the street art course at the Hobby Lobby in Mödling is well attended. The boys and girls are creating pictures that will beautify the course room that the club has moved into in the fall.

Everyone is so committed to the task – when the cleanup is called after 50 minutes, some don’t believe that the time is already up. But then the free tutoring lesson starts right away, followed by a robotics course. But the course schedule also includes dancing, acting, boxing, soccer, and cheerleading.

“Having a hobby does a lot for young people, because now I’m not learning how to hold a spray can or assemble a robot,” says Nadine Wasser-Zeiss, managing director in Lower Austria. At the same time in the same place every week. And I have someone there who cares about me and has a passion for a hobby and carries me along with that enthusiasm. I’m learning all kinds of social skills that I’m going to take with me in my life and education in the future.”

Courses should keep children away from the couch and cell phones

In principle, freerolls are open to everyone, but the main goal is to get those who spend their free time in front of their mobile phones or on the sofa. Fabio Tiani explains that the barriers to participation in leisure activities are complex. Together with Nadine Wasser-Zeiss, he runs the first club site in Lower Austria in Mödling. “First of all, some children don’t even know that such courses exist, that there are clubs they can use. Then there are children who know about it, but are afraid to go there alone, or don’t know where exactly you have to go, how to register, etc. And parents or legal guardians often don’t know either.”

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ORF / Birgit Zroste

In addition to robotics and street art, the course schedule also includes dance, acting, boxing, soccer, and cheerleading

And then, of course, money also plays a role: “If the kids knew there wasn’t enough money in the house, they wouldn’t even dare suggest they wanted to try handball or cheerleading.”

“What? This costs 0 euros?”

The show is advertised in middle schools. Often children initially do not think that the courses are actually free. The first reaction is usually, ‘What? This costs 0 euros? “Sometimes you have to discuss it again with your parents because they don’t believe it either,” says Fabio Tiani.

Entry is via a non-binding trial week, and no proof of income is required. Tiani explains the concept: “It is important for us not to stigmatize poverty, which means that if best friends come from different families, they should also have the opportunity to attend a course together.”

Central location without ‘major taxi’

The Society was founded in Vienna and, since October, has had a location in Mödling – and it was so well received that over a hundred children took advantage of the offer in the second term. “Success stands and falls with the location,” says Wasser-Zeiss, “we are here at the Youth Center. It teaches the children that it is centrally located between all kinds of middle schools and the train station and that is why it works. Because it is also necessary for the children to attend the courses independently” so that Parents never have to play taxi again. Because this is also a barrier to entry.”

The Hobby Lobby is funded by donations and grants, course instructors work on a volunteer basis, and some work alongside sports clubs. Other locations in Lower Austria are currently being planned.