A Rocha Czech was started in the late 1990’s thanks to the initiative of Pavel Světlík, nature conservationist, ornithologist and pastor of the Protestant denomination the Brethren Church. The beginnings took place in Southern Bohemia in the Šumava Mountains (Bohemian Forest National Park), in the towns of Prachatice and Husinec.
Pavel Světlík (b. 1950) has been involved in environmental activities since his childhood. In the early 1960’s he was one of many pupils and disciples of Dr Jan Čeřovský who, under the influence of the “ABC Magazine for Young Technicians and Scientists,” led young people to form groups called “nature protection guards.” Dr Čeřovský led such a group in the Dobruška – Dobré region; they called themselves the Mountain Goats (information about the activities of this group, registered as No. 218, can be found in ABC issues of 1963, 1964 and 1965). The group was active in the years 1963-1965 and received the highest prize awarded by the magazine, the Title of Columbus. They were actively involved in nature conservation through botanical and ornithological programs (protection of snowflakes, hanging nest boxes for song birds, protection of owls and birds of prey in cooperation with the Czechoslovak Union for Hunting and Conservation).
Between 1965 and 1975 Pavel Světlík pursued education first in agriculture and then in theology. He became member of the Czechoslovak Society for Ornithology in 1965 and in 1967 obtained his banding license under the leadership of Jiří Prášil (also known by his boyscout nickname Šilek), ornithologist and boyscout leader in the town of Třebechovice.
After the Velvet Revolution of 1989, Pavel started to lead nature conservation clubs for children and teens in the Prachatice region: the Christian Club for Nature Conservation in Husinec (1990-1993) and the Christian Ornithological Group (1994-1998) which was part of a broader work of the YMCA in Husinec. This latter group was run in cooperation with the environmental center Dřípatka in Prachatice with the help of Aleš Záveský, teacher, and Bohuslav Nauš, ecologist.
At the end of the 1990’s, a British missionary to Eastern Europe, Chris Fox, introduced Pavel and Radka Světlík to Keith Morris, member of A Rocha in the United Kingdom. Later Pavel exchanged letters with Peter Harris, founder of A Rocha. These contacts led to a meeting of both groups and a first preparatory conference in June 2000 where about 40 participants discussed the idea of establishing A Rocha in the Czech Republic. That followed in the fall of 2001 and summer of 2002 when A Rocha Czech Republic was officially founded.
Among the first members of the ARCZ core group were Jan Hluchý of Brno, Karel Hůlka of Klatovy, Ladislav Zvolánek of Merklín, and Martin Legát of Česká Skalice; they were later joined by Pavel Štifter who is now the chairman of the board.
Pavel Světlík was appointed executive director of ARCZ. When the Světlík family moved to Eastern Bohemia in the summer of 2002, the center of ARCZ activities was transferred from the Prachatice region to the Česká Skalice and Dobruška area.
The decisive impulse toward the founding of A Rocha Czech, and its real beginning, was the first conference of future members of AR in Husinec, June 1st to 4th, 2000. Peter and Miranda Harris and Keith and Maureen Morris were present together with about 40 people from various churches, though mainly from the Brethren Church. Dr Pavel Černý, President of the Brethren Church, also attended the meeting at Pavel and Radka’s invitation. After the conference, at a private meeting at the Pygmy Owl Cabin (a cabin of the Škopek family from Husinec) in the afternoon of Sunday, June 4th 2000, Dr Černý confirmed that the Brethren Church would fully support the project spiritually and financially by keeping Pavel Světlík on staff as the Church’s appointee for the ecological movement.
Establishing A Rocha Czech was a gradual process and it wasn’t until two years after that first meeting that ARCZ was officially founded, on 17th June 2002.