Today, Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas and Irene Käosaar, Director of the Integration Foundation, announced the list of most outstanding promoters of integration for the year. Recognition and a financial prize were awarded to the non-profit Estonian Union of National Minorities, Estonian Refugee Council and Changemakers, as well as Arkadi Popov, the Director of the Emergency Medicine Centre of the North Estonia Medical Centre.
‘The Republic of Estonia is one of the safest places in this stormy ocean of the world and most of the people living here understand that well and love this country,’ said the Culture Minister Tõnis Lukas. ‘Many people from different nationalities live here, who eagerly build the Estonian society and show by example how to become an Estonian patriot while preserving their own national identity. For that they deserve special gratitude and recognition,’ he added.
The prizes in the field of integration are awarded to individuals and organizations that, during the last year, have helped to introduce the cultures represented in Estonia, to establish contacts and develop co-operation between people with different mother tongues and to find a common language among these communities. Prizes were awarded in four categories, and the greatest contributor in each category received a prize of €1,000.
In the category of Culture Introducer of the Year, the prize went to the non-profit Estonian Union of National Minorities for organising the tenth Etno Fair and the XXXII Estonian Nationalities Forum. At the Etno Fair, everyone could get acquainted with the handicrafts and cuisine of various nationalities and enjoy their music. About 20,000 people visited the fair. The Estonian Union of National Minorities has made a long-term contribution to the introduction of many different cultures and finding common ground between various communities.
The award in the Bridgebuilder of the Year category was won by the Estonian Refugee Council, which organised a series of events called Let's Get Acquainted! in various parts of Estonia. The aim was to introduce the coping efforts and activities of the new immigrants in Estonia, to develop cooperation between various communities and increase tolerance of different cultures. In each county, thanks to the undertaking, it was possible to get better acquainted with Estonia's multiculturalism better and find new acquaintances among different nationalities.
Arkadi Popov, the Director of the Emergency Medicine Centre of the North Estonia Medical Centre, and former head of the Emergency Medicine at the Health Board won the integration prize in the Messenger of the Year category. At a critical time, Popov was able to be a reliable spokesperson for people speaking different languages by uniting communities, as well as creating insight and common understanding of how everyone can contribute to halting the spread of the coronavirus.
For the first time this year, the award was presented in the Spark Organisation category. It was won by the non-profit Changemakers that organised a youth development program called Changemakers Academy. The undertaking brought together 120 young people who speak Estonian or Russian as their mother tongues, organised them into teams and had them work on resolving communications, marketing or sales issues. In addition, more than 3,300 young people gained new knowledge about social entrepreneurship thanks to the project's recruitment campaign.
A total of 28 applications were received for the 2019–2020 Integration Project Competition. The Integration Foundation has been awarding prizes for development projects in the field of integration since 1999 and for media projects since 2009. The Ministry of Culture finances the competition fund for integration prizes.
Photos of today's integration awards ceremony are available here (photos: Viktor Burkivski).