Civic Engagement in Rijeka: "Kvart za 5"

By 28 November 2018

November 28, 2018 - Could civic engagement success stories spark hope for a better tomorrow? Get to know one such story about the 'Kvart za 5' initiative.

With Croatia being awash in a sea of incompetent and corrupt politicians at every level of government, including local self-governing bodies, and with most Croatians being oblivious of how we are systematically being deprived of real democracy, it is a really nice surprise to see a group of young people (none of whom have ever been part of a political party!) organized in a civic initiative with the idea of being the change they want to see in their local community.

And that is what 'Kvart za 5' initiative is all about. These five fellow lady citizens of Rijeka met through volunteering in their local community and are engaged in projects of public importance. They are united by the same goal and vision: to make their city a cleaner, more safe, and pleasant place to live in. And what better place to start than their own neighborhood?

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For years before the 'Kvart za 5' initiative was launched, Sandra Ivić (lawyer), Nina Majcan Šprajc (film location manager), Sandra Grozdanov (preschool teacher), Barbara Miletić (entrepreneur) and Palma Karković Takalić (archaeologist) were individually trying to work towards improving the quality of life in their local community. It all started by repeatedly contacting officials of the Školjić - Rijeka Old Town area committee about the problems they've been encountering in their neighborhood: environmental nuisance and the ever-increasing number of offenses against public peace and order during any time of day or night, casual littering and poor hygiene of public spaces, urination and unattended dog fouling, poor pest control, etc.

Their neighborhood was also lacking green spaces, while the few parks and recreation facilities were poorly maintained and in desperate need of makeovers. On top of that, the ladies demanded complete reconstruction of the Ivan Klobučarić Square – what was once a beautiful park and Nikola Tesla Elementary School playground is now a vast concrete floor that's been for years a constant reminder of a disgraceful waste of city's money and the failed Rijeka City Library project.

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Driven by the same desire to turn Školjić - Rijeka Old Town into a "five-star hood," the forenamed residents decided to take matters into their own hands: they've teamed up, joined forces and in December 2017 'Kvart za 5' was born. Since then, they've managed to get funds from the Rijeka Local Partnership Program and used the granted 40.000 kuna to revitalize the Školjić park with children's playground equipment, plus they invited their neighbors to help them repaint the park benches. And that's just the beginning of the 'Kvart za 5' story.

Ladies of 'Kvart za 5' have no intention of running for any kind of political office. Besides, the last thing this country needs is more politicians. What we do need, especially on a local level, is more good neighbors and active community members like the women standing behind the 'Kvart za 5' initiative.

And while the rest of us can only look up to these five ladies – or maybe even try to actively participate in our own local communities to address health, environment, safety, and other needs – their neighbors are invited to show support by voting for them at the Rijeka 2018 local committee elections which are to take place Sunday, December 2nd, 2018 at the Nikola Tesla Elementary School.

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