Being a leader in one's own community often involves a hint of creativity; sometimes more than just a hint. It takes creative thinking to be able to come up with solutions to the problems the people around you are confronting. And what better way to develop creativity than though playing. That is way developing creativity in children that aspire to become leaders can be a rewarding investment.
On the other hand, playing is essential for all children, whether they will become leaders or not. Having this in mind, our focus turned for the summer time towards providing playful and educational activities for the children living in isolated rural communities. At least once a week the team traveled to these remote villages to spend time together with the children that are in vacation. For several hours, we played together but we also tested their vigilance, creativity, fast thinking and ability to solve problems with various games and tasks.
It doesn’t take much for a child that has little access to these kinds of activities to become attached to the people that bring them. Thus, very time coming back we met an increasing number of children, some of them eager to test their skills, other just wanting to do something out of the routine. This, in turn allowed us to get to know them better and to understand better the reality they are living in and the goals and aspirations of many of them.
What was encouraging for us was that parents would come to us and tell us of the raised spirits of their children coming back from a meeting with us, telling us about initiatives of the children to seek information regarding topics approached during our activities, or searching for challenges to propose on our future meetings. For us, this shows a satisfying impact of our work, and it consists a great motivation to continue our games of summer.
Change in the rural communities happens slow and is prone to be quickly dismissed or forgotten. When aiming to change attitudes, one is looking ahead to a long process in which one needs to involve as many stakeholders as possible to make it sustainable.
In order to ensure the viability of our actions we dedicated an appreciable amount of time to actually present our initiative to the authorities in charge in the rural communities – mayor’s offices, school principals, teachers, parents etc. This action created for us the premises of success in our initiative, as the participants to these meetings understand the importance of such an initiative and also its potential mid and long term effects.
Eventually, after the discussions we had, we decided to stick to three rural communities. They present a higher degree of isolation, which translates to a low level of secondary education amongst the teenagers living there, low access to activities outside school, low access to information and services, and the list can go on. All these lead to limited perspective for the children that grow up in these villages and contribute to create and maintain a vicious circle of poverty and low education.
Once these communities are set, the following period we will continue to do activities in the schools there and with the help of the teachers we will select the children that will make the following groups to work on becoming the leaders of tomorrow.
It’s not always easy, as a kid, to make yourself heard, especially when you are trying to change something around you. Weather it’s about how children are generally perceived and treated or the way the community fulfills their needs, bringing change in the reality surrounding them is a difficult process. And while living in a city does bring some benefits in that direction, allowing one more access to information and resources, in the countryside these processes almost never happen. For many of the children growing up in the countryside it’s an important challenge to be able to finish school, and then maybe attend highschool (9-12 class in Romania) in a town or a city. The way the society around them is built in most cases holds them down, and rarely gives them the opportunity to be in charge of their own development and environment.
In order to change that, we identified a group of gifted children from the rural environment that are currently in the care of the social services, for different reasons. We started a pilot project in the beginning, with just some of them, but through the funding raised with the help of Globalgiving we were able to expand the group and work with up to 15 children. The focus so far for them is to help them discover and develop their strengths and talents. At the same time, we are already tackling subject that they are interested in, when it comes to social environment and society, in general.
For the next phase we intend to actually identify children in the rural communities, that live there and go to school there, and do activities with them in their reality. This way we will all be more anchored in the surroundings and will be able to focus on issues that need immediate attention.
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