Child, two children, children

Copi, Copii, Copiii

Applying for this year’s IWitness programme, I had several expectations. I wanted to have courage to face reality, to feel progress for myself and to raise awareness. Maybe a lot to expect but thanks to our wonderful hosts, Save the Children Romania, and the other IWitness ambassadors, now my friends, I am confident in the difference we are making.

We started our journey in the Centre for Emotional and Behavioural Education of Children, with the IKEA Foundation-supported project’s management team. Here, we had short introduction to their programmes in Romania. After that, we visited a school in Bucharest and all started playing with the kids.

A game followed by curious eyes. By – Robert Špišić.

Going on a trip like this you need to be prepared to see and feel beautiful things but also to be shocked. Easy to say. But on the second day of my IWitness trip, I realised that nothing can prepare you for this eye-opening, full-of-emotions journey.

Nothing can prepare you for bunch of emotions when you receive a spontaneous hug from a child you just met and, when you hug him back, he can’t stop hugging you over and over again. Those spontaneous hugs happened after we all finished our drawings and they were a way of saying “thank you” to each other. The unforgettable thank you.

On that second day I realised how important is for those kids to have a programme that prepares them for mandatory school. That programme is held during summer in several locations and it teaches Roma children to be tolerant and empathetic at school. Also, they are encouraged and praised for every accomplished task. That kind of positive approach they have at school keeps them interested and motivated to return to school.

The unforgettable thank you. By – Robert Špišić.

Visiting different local Roma communities, teachers and headmasters, I had an opportunity to hear about the many obstacles they face. On this visit, the headmaster explained his point of view and problems he encounters in his work. The biggest problem he brought up was the instability of the government and frequent changes of ministers. Meeting with ministers and explaining to them problems they are facing, possible solutions and requesting for support is something they need to do over and over again. But despite this, they reported a decrease in the dropout rate of Roma children from school. One of the teachers explained us that due to poverty, many parents cannot afford books and school supplies. That teacher came up with idea of book bank and organised an action to collect books and school supplies from donors. Now the kids can attend school and borrow everything they need from the book bank. It’s a simple and efficient way of saying “I care”.

Painting together with watercolours. By – Robert Špišić.

On the last day of our IWItness trip we went to the poorest community we’d visited so far in Pietrosani city. On that day, I was most surprised at the fact that everyone is trying really hard to reduce the dropout of the Roma children from school. Listening to the reasons why Roma children are abandoning school actually made me think about the huge sacrifice parents need to make to educate their children.

But I was surprised even more by the clever and simple measures the community came up with to keep children coming back to school and help parents to educate their children. Travelling to school from remote places was a big problem for most children, so the mayor provided a bus to pick them up at certain stations. But due to roads in terrible conditions, especially on a rainy day or in winter time, some children were not able to be at that station every day. So now the bus picks up every child in front of their home, door-to-door.

Now children at school have a proper hot meal. You must have thought it was something that is implied but it isn’t. This is another reason why children like to go to school. The hot meal invites them to school especially when, for most of them, it is the only meal they get that day. These measures may seem not so much to you but it takes a lot of work and inclusion from teachers and the community to provide something like this on their own.

Boy leaning against the well. By – Robert Špišić.

This is only a small part of what I have experienced on this trip that could be described in words. There are no words to express some emotions and therefore the pictures speak for themselves. Overall, I am amazed by the progress these people have achieved despite many obstacles. We can only ask ourselves what can we do in future, together. Since everything started with playing with the children, so it ends. So let’s make sure that all children have a carefree childhood and education.

A girl waving. By – Robert Špišić.
    Robert Spisic