A world of contrasts

We live in a world full of contrasts, which sometimes we don’t notice anymore. We have broadband Internet connections, we get our weather forecast from satellites and we live in shiny cities that never sleep.

80 km away from Bucharest, our capital city, where the wealth is above the European average, we had today the opportunity to visit two locations where Save the Children Romania implements their “Raising children in a Stigma-Free Society”, a project financed by IKEA Foundation. For us, the employees of the Bucharest IKEA store, this project is the fulfillment of the goal of every year’s Soft Toys Campaign.

First we visited the kindergarten in Vulcana-Pandele, a village close to the city of Târgoviște. 20 friendly and enthusiastic kids greeted us, all sunny as a summer day.

We saw how they learned to draw, sing and dance in a very short period of time. One month ago they had never been to school or kindergarten, they did not know how to introduce themselves or wash their hands.

Summer kindergarten in Vulcana - photo by Mircea Ilie
Summer kindergarten in Vulcana – photo by Mircea Ilie

These children belong to very poor families, usually with a lot of children, where the parents themselves did not have the opportunity to go to school when they were younger.

House in poor area in Vulcana - photo by Mircea Ilie
House in poor area in Vulcana – photo by Mircea Ilie

Many of the children walk 2-3 km every day to school and the same distance back, be it good weather, rain or snow. Even under these circumstances, most of the children that attended the Save the Children project are very dedicated to learning when they enroll in regular schools. They usually miss classes only when they are sick.

The narrow path to school - photo by Mircea Ilie
The narrow path to school – photo by Mircea Ilie

In Vulcana-Pandele, 100% of the children who attended the summer kindergarten last year enrolled in school and graduated the class. Nationwide, 94% of the children who attended kindergartens in the summer of 2013 graduated in 2014.

This achievement was possible thanks to dedicated and involved teachers, some of them doing voluntary work, who become inspirational models for these kids: one 5 year old girl confessed she wants to become a teacher.

IWitness Ligia helps a future teacher to draw - photo by Mircea Ilie
IWitness Ligia helps a future teacher to draw – photo by Mircea Ilie

Next, we visited a summer kindergarten in ”Mihai Viteazul” school in Târgoviște, where we found the same enthusiasm and openness.

Both in Vulcana-Pandele and in Târgoviște the children prepared very nice shows for us: poems, dancing, singing. We were very impressed how much they accomplished in only three weeks, since the 2014 program started.

Children's show in Vulcana - photo by Mircea Ilie
Children’s show in Vulcana – photo by Mircea Ilie
Children's show in Târgoviște - photo by Mircea Ilie
Children’s show in Târgoviște – photo by Mircea Ilie

We talked to parents proud of their children’s abilities, parents willing to continue to attend the program and to send their other children, too.

All the children are receptive and have great potential. The teachers identified some with special abilities, but these abilities need to be continuously developed.

In Târgoviște, at the show performed by the children we also met the Mayor. The City Hall is willing to continue the project for a longer term.

It would be great if this could happen in more places in the country, but it’s still a long road ahead. However, two first steps were taken: two extra summer kindergartens supported by the City Hall from Târgoviște volunteered to join the project.

We saw dirty roads, we saw poor houses, but we saw also commitment, dedication, joy and sparkling eyes. And we go home with hope in our hearts. We will make sure that this year’s Soft Toys Campaign will be better, because somewhere in the world children need help.

 

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