Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Catherine Lytle: proposal for an institutionalized friendship

The Lípa Foundation: Institutionalization of Friendship

For this week’s response paper I wanted to attempt to design my own response to institutionalizing friendship. In class we talked a lot about NGOs being solutions to national and domestic institutionalizations of friendships and therefore I wanted to create one which addresses identity, political oppression and forgiveness. My fictional foundation was created in response to a global cry for help which also helps address domestic political issues. While I do not specifically quote from any readings, I was informed not only through our class discussions and the points that we raised but also through my own experience with people who yearn for this kind of program to exist. I hope that you like my proposal. 


Our foundation takes its name from the Czech national tree: lípa

Mission Statement 

What does it mean to be a citizen of a country today? To what extent should an identity be subjugated to the idea of a nation-state? In rethinking what it means to be a member of a modern community, which knows no political, economic, gender, ethnic, and race boundaries, the Lípa Foundation aims to counter the divisive populist political movements that are emerging all around the world. The Lípa Foundation allows people of Czech and Slovak heritage who’s ancestors were forced to emigrate from former Czechoslovakia due to an oppressive political regime to reconnect with their heritage in a safe and nurturing environment. This is an opportunity for the Czech and Slovak diaspora to discover, further, enrich, and reproduce their relationship with their heritage. In an effort to bridge the gap between a painful past a search for identity, the Lípa Foundation believes that through this institutionalization of friendship, we can, together, overcome the unforgiving past and look to a brighter future. 


About Us

The idea for this foundation came from dozens of conversations with people of Czech and Slovak heritage, who never experienced a life in the Czech Republic, felt disconnected from their identity, and yearned for the ability to connect with their parents and grandparents in new ways. We place Aristotelian virtues as the core raison d’être of our foundation. We believe that a friendless life is not worth living, and if there are people who wish to become whole or better understand themselves by searching for a missing fragment of their identity then we can help amend that. The Good: Through friendship we can not only come to understand truth but find an end in itself through friendship. The Pleasant: our staff have taken this mission to core of their being and hope that our participants may experience only the best through our program. We not only understand and sympathize with our participants but our foundation aims to offer that which might otherwise be impossible to them. We are here to help them search for their heritage by offering our resources and knowledge to help them rebuild their narrative. 


Program Overview

We believe in a stable continuous relationship that is not contingent upon time and space. While the program will take place in the Czech Republic, the relationships that are borne of this program transcend borders. Moreover we cater to the individual needs rather than a normative rigid structure that corresponds to one notion of “identity.” We offer the following services which are available to anyone who is interested in the program. Participants may choose to sign up for any of the following: 

  1. Czech lessons: These intensive language classes are 4 hours a day for ten weeks and run 4 times a year: spring, summer, fall, winter. Morning and afternoon sessions are offered. The course is taught by professors from Czech universities. If participants are interested in Slovak lessons, they should contact our coordinator.  
  2. Field trips: While the foundation does not coordinate specific field trips, our staff are more than happy to help you plan your trip. They can even help arrange accommodation as well as assist in booking transportation tickets. 
  3. Reconnecting with heritage:  If participants are interested in reconnecting with family members, we cannot help reconnect them with their family but we can also aid in facilitating conversation between them. 
  4. Accommodation: While we cannot offer dormitories to our participants, we can help them find accommodation that would be most suited to their needs. Moreover, most leases for apartments are a minimum year long we are in a partnership with a limited amount of homestay families and airbnb owners. 
  5. Buddies: We understand the importance of deep and meaningful relationships between individuals and we understand that those may be especially difficult to foster if alone in an unknown place. We can help participants join clubs and activities where they may meet people with the same interests as well as offer them a “buddy” who attends Charles University in Prague. The foundation believes in longevity and therefore we believe in fostering deep relationships which allow participants to create powerful memories and a lasting relationship not only with their newly reconnected heritage but also with their fellow citizens. 


Fees and Eligibility 

The Lípa Foundation is a non-government organization which receives funding through the Charles University in Prague and through a variety of private sponsors such as the British Council, the American Chamber of Commerce, Citi Bank and Bloomberg. The majority of our services are free to our participants including Czech lessons, reconnection to heritage, as well as homestay and accommodation with partner owners, students will not receive a living stipend and will have to pay for any personal expenses including field trips. The foundation is able to help participants find part time work to help cover any necessary costs. 

This program is primarily aimed at people wishing to reconnect with their Czech and Slovak heritage. While we do not ask for official proof of familial lineage, we ask for participants to submit a letter or motivation, a letter of recommendation, and a project outline. The project outline pertains to a self driven project that the participants will undertake while enrolled in our program. This project is supposed to enrich the participant as well as help enhance their relationship with the Czech lands. 


Why Choose Us?

We believe that citizenship is not a reflection of one’s race, class or linguistic abilities. It is a way of being which is contingent upon loyalty to oneself but also to the values that one espouses with a country they love and believe in. We believe in a justice that privileges friendship, reconciliation, and forgiveness rather hatred and confusion. In a day and age when people carry multiple passports and fight wars for many countries, citizenship and the notion of nation-state cannot adhere to the same rules that our predecessors may have believed in. Everyone is equal and that also extends to their identity and desire to feel at home in whatever country they choose. We at the Lípa Foundation are privileged enough to have the resources and the skills to be able to help anyone in need. All you need to do is ask. 

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