Ivana Radimecká: Our team is like a family
Written by: Monika Mudranincová
Photo by: Vojtěch Vlk
For seven years, the daily role of Ivana Radimecká, director
of the non-profit organization White Light I, has been to maintain
a therapeutic community for people with drug dependencies.
What activities does the civic association White Light I engage
It provides all levels of care for people with drug problems. We
have a contact center in Teplice, a field facility devoted to active
drug users. Another level is the White Light I therapeutic community,
which offers a treatment program and resocialization, and we even
have a social-legal agency that deals with follow-up care and sheltered
What is the daily regimen in the therapeutic community?
We have a typical village home with a barn in Mukařov, near Litoměřice,
to which we can admit clients over the age of 15 who are recovering
from drug dependency. But because it's a long-term matter we have
to work on their psychological and social adaptation through a
structured daily regimen and group therapy. In the morning we start
with calisthenics, followed by work therapy - with the clients
cooking, doing the laundry and cleaning, tending to livestock,
the land, and the greenhouse, or helping local farmers. The strict
rules they must follow put them in a very demanding situation -
they weren't used to taking care of themselves, not to mention
Your therapists must have lots of empathy, but they also must
know the limits on how close they can get to the clients in order
the treatment to succeed. What characteristics are necessary?
Besides empathy, charisma is very important, as without
it they wouldn't get the respect of the clients. They are very
socially, as they've been conditioned by life on the streets and
they can sense what's going on inside yourself. That's why it's
so hard to find the proper limits and distance. Whenever employees
arrive they usually get too close to the clients, but as time passes
they discover that they're being manipulated. Then it's far more
difficult to maintain respect.
So you recommend that at the beginning one should clearly set
limits, possibly shifting them later?
It definitely pays off, even though it's difficult. Our team functions
like a family for the clients, and our role is parental. We work
in a friendly atmosphere, spend our days and nights together, go
on week-long outings... so our work relationships are completely
different from those of office workers.
Is it hard to find good therapists? How many employees do you
It's very difficult, due to the low financial remuneration, among
other things. The average gross monthly wage is around CZK 14,000
for a therapist. This includes night duty, weekends, and around-the-clock
operation. So it's mainly young people who do this work. We invest
a lot in their education, but unfortunately when they have to support
a family they leave. At the time, we have seventeen full-timers
in our facilities, nine in the community.
What leadership style works well for you?
I'm democratic, sometimes excessively so. We often vote on issues,
but I have the right of veto. I think when you work with a team
like ours it's not good to assign tasks by fiat. It's better to
get the team to identify with the task. Otherwise they'd treat
the work as a routine or do it poorly.
Are you aware of any shortcomings in your management style?
||graduated from the
Faculty of Pedagogy in Ústí nad Labem, (Czech studies
and social science)
at the Agricultural high school in Libverda Děčín
as the manager at the White Light I therapeutic community
as the director of White Light I therapeutic community
||worked at the Cranstown
Drug Services after-treatment center in London
||named director of
the White Light I civic association in August
I'm phlegmatic, and often I don't address matters until I'm forced
to. I'm definitely not much of a planner who checks off tasks from
lists. I'm always telling myself it won't happen again, but somehow
I keep running into problems. I just let people talk me out of
What managerial errors have you made?
I'm guilty of errors of omission - for example, I still have far
to go in public relations. I understand that if we want to attract
sponsors we must increase our visibility, but we lack funds and
personnel for targeted PR!
What has been the greatest challenge in your career?
The hardest thing was drawing my team close around me right after
I replaced my husband in the position. He founded this community
and attracted the staff, so he was something of a guru to them.
When he left to join the government and his wife replaced him,
it was a shock for most of the people, especially the men. Those
who couldn't handle it left, the others built a team. Our common
goal and willingness to work helped.
What is your communication system like?
My door is always open, anyone can come. I don't insist on formality,
I don't play the role of the big boss. I'm on a first-name basis
Money is the non-profit sector's greatest problem. How much time
do you spend seeking out financial resources?
An awful lot. It's exhausting. We get 70% of our funding from the
state budget and we have to get the other 30% from outside sources.
So every year we suffer from uncertainty. Additionally, all sponsors
prefer giving money to children, sports, or culture. The target
group of people with drug dependencies isn't "in". How
can we plan strategically and develop ourselves if we don't know
if we'll survive the coming year? That is very frustrating.
Do you have any advice for new managers?
Learn from others, listen to them, but stay true to yourself.
Don't be afraid of taking responsibility for your decisions.
Have a vision.