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Zippy's Friends in Slovakia

New NGO Zippy, Slovakia

Zippy’s Friends has been running in Slovakia since 2013, with the programme currently in its sixth school year. For the first five years it was coordinated by the League for Mental Health, with implementation overseen by Sasha Brazinova. The League for Mental Health is a large NGO with many priorities and Sasha felt Zippy’s Friends needed more dedicated focus and attention. So, with support from the League, she has set up her own NGO to deliver the programme in the country. Her NGO, simply called ‘Zippy’, was established in May 2018.

Sasha has been joined by part-time Programme Manager Katarina, and the new NGO has hit the ground running, successfully expanding Zippy’s Friends and introducing Apple’s Friends in the country. In June 2018 they recruited additional trainers and with this team they have been able to train over 180 teachers this year.

The NGO’s model of working with trainers in different regions was inspired by the events Sasha has attended with other PfC partners, including the conference in Prague last spring, and the International Workshop in Oxford. She says: ‘It’s been really helpful to attend the international meetings and learn how other partners are implementing the programmes - it’s been inspirational.’

Working with new trainers has been really successful for the ‘Zippy’ NGO. The new trainers have brought with them their own enthusiasm and networks and enabled the programme to expand into new areas. This year, Zippy’s Friends is running in schools across all eight regions of Slovakia.

There have been some challenges along the way- not least lack of time! Sasha has had to fit in her work as an academic at Comenius University in Bratislava, alongside setting up and running a new NGO. However, Sasha is ambitious for Zippy the NGO and the Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends programmes in Slovakia. She is keen to improve on the programme’s reach into the new areas of the country, is looking at ways to engage previously trained teachers and plans to introduce the ‘My Zippy Book’ as a standard part of the Slovak materials. Ultimately she wants to see the programmes embedded in schools across the country: ‘I’m really happy that we are doing this and I can see that the interest is growing. My vision is that the programme will become part of the curriculum - I think that’s where it belongs.’