It is that time of the year when relaxation and joy must combine with generosity and care for the less privileged. This is particularly important in Romania, where there is a large number of poor people. According to statistics made public by the Social Monitor, a project of the Friedrich Ebert Romania Foundation, more than 1.5 million Romanians earn less than 3 Euros per day. These figures place us first among the Europeans found in vulnerable situations. The revenues of the 10% poorest Romanians are by 10% smaller than the revenues of the 10% poorest Europeans. In the countryside, there are entire communities marked by multiple vulnerabilities, according to the study “The wellbeing of children in the rural communities” conducted by the World Vision Romania Foundation. Oana Serban, a communication director with World Vision Foundation, explains:
Oana Serban “There are all sort of problems in the rural area. The school dropout rate there is high, because children do not have financial resources to go to school, they do not have moral support either, they do not have footwear or clothing. There are also other types of problems, such as the lack of opportunities for adults. These children’s parents cannot find a job in the rural area. Hence, they leave the country to find work abroad or are day workers here, for very little money. Given the fact that people in rural areas have many children, it is very difficult for them to provide for them.”
Consequently, one in every 11 children goes to bed hungry while 19% of the total number of children in Romania do not got to school. 74% of the children who give up school are from the rural area. For this reason, charitable organisations such as World Vision, initiate projects aimed at curbing this phenomenon which is also a consequence of poverty:
Oana Serban “The project “Bread for tomorrow as well” is a programme aimed at reducing the worrying school dropout rate. Under this programme, we offer them a hot meal at school and two hours of help with the homework. Over 1,250 children from the counties of Dolj, Valcea and Vaslui are included in the programme. At the beginning of 2019 we will also expand it to a community in the county of Cluj. We have been developing this programme for two years, because there are big problems with the nutrition of children in the rural area. Children don’t eat or eat unhealthy food, usually in small amounts. The warm meal we offered was welcomed by both kids and teachers. Children are doing their best not to miss school and are getting better integrated. They are even happier in school.”
This program follows another one, that has run for the past 10 years. It targets high school students and is called “I want to be a 9th grader”.
Oana Serban “We practically offer scholarships to children coming from very poor families who want to go to school and learn. We provide them with help, which is not only material help. Part of the money goes to them, for them to manage it themselves, and the other part goes into different activities included in the project. Besides the support they receive for school supplies, accommodation and transport, there is another component that helps them become more independent. It is not easy for a child to move from the countryside to the city to be able to go to high school. We organize various activities for them to socialize and we also help them with their homework. It is a complex program and for each student there is an individual intervention plan. We take different actions for different students. In the 10 years in which the project has run, we have had 1,395 high school graduates. The percentage of our students who passed the Baccalaureate exam is 74% at national level. And 260 of them are higher education graduates. They are being supported by individual donors and also by means of partnerships with various companies.”
Since the winter season brings along specific problems that add to the children’s other problems, a season campaign has been recently launched, which targets footwear donation. In the poor rural communities, children don’t have appropriate boots for winter:
Oana Serban “It is a sad reality, but this is the truth. Quite frequently a single pair of boots is worn by all siblings in a home, when they need to go outside or when they to go to school. That is why we decided to so something about it. We are raising money to buy footwear for all the children in the communities where we run the project. I am talking about 14,500 children. How can we support them? Through donations made by a text message to 8849 with the text BOOTS, a message that costs 4 Euros. We intended the campaign to last until the end of January.”
For the life of these people to improve on long term, they need constant, system-provided support.
(translated by: Lacramioara Simion, Elena Enache)