As the pandemic seems to slow down and people started to get vaccinated, our project is trying to gradually come back to normality. We slowly started to visit the children again, though still in smaller groups than we were used to. Even so, we were received with great enthusiasm and joy, and the energy was through the roof every time we met.
To bring even more joy to our sessions, we have just started collaborating with a team of actors that will perform in every community we work until the end of summer. The reactions are very positive, as you can see in one of the attached pictures.
So far this year, we have organized more than 20 face-to-face sessions with the mobile school for more than 300 children of school and pre-school age, and 2 shows with the theatre team.
Looking forward, we intend to increase the frequency of our sessions, at least throughout the summer, to be able to reach as many children as possible that have little or no access to educational activites outside of school.
As the pandemic continued throughout the end of the last year and the beginning of the new one, the general idea in the education system was that it would be safer to keep the schools closed to protect the children, the teachers and everyone around them. Although school started in normal circumstances, the situation quickly changed and children were facing again the screens and monitors from home in the online education activities. That was the case for the lucky ones, though, because most of the children that we work with come from families that can’t afford to buy a laptop or a tablet, let alone a device for each child. It was therefore a priority for us to try to help these children get in contact with their schools and teachers to be able to attend the online courses and to ensure they have devices and knowledge to participate in education.
With help from the local community we managed to purchase 70 tablets that were distributed to the children. They then attended in groups of up to ten children in our educational centers to learn how to use the tablets and get accustomed with the platforms the schools provided. At the same time we helped them to keep up with the rest of their colleagues, by providing educational assistance for their assignments.
All this time, we also tried to maintain a close connection with the children living outside of Iasi, too, by visiting them individually at home and distributing educational materials (on paper) that they could use in their own pace.
Only in the past couple of weeks schools opened again and we are now, at least for a while, able to see groups of children. Hopefully, we will be able to do this until the end of the school year.
There is a new reality we have to adapt to. The impossibility to meet with large groups of people (children, in our case) has defenetly impacted our work. It takes now more effort and more time to reach all of our clients, but it is time and energy worth spending. We adapted on the road to developing new types of activities and organizing the interactions with children in such a way so that no one would be put to risk.
The mobile School is still attractive for the little ones, but we need to make more preparations just to be sure we don't send children away because too may may come. Inside the educational centers we are running we reduced the number of children that can be present simultaneously, but we increased the overall time that we spend there so that as many children as possible can participate in the educational activities.
In the rural areas we continued to make home visits to reach the children that were not participating in any form of educational activities (especially during the summer break but also after school started). We prepared interesting activities and games for them, printed them on paper and distributed the files in more than 15 rural communities. We still tried after that to maintain a connection with the kids, through regular phone calls (where that was possible, because not all children have network coverege in the village they live), to make sure they manage to go through the porposed activities and games.
And, while the pandemic situation asks for a physical distancing, we know we managed to stay close in our hearts!
The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic coincided with the regular debut of our outdoor activities season. As early as mid-March we had restrictions in Romania and schools were closed all over the country. Since public and private gatherings were forbidden, at first we tried to contact the children that we work with via online methods, using groups on various social platforms. It was a good decent replacement for the activities but we felt the downsides of not having face-to-face contact with the children and also there were still a lot of the children that don’t have access to technology. Considering all these, we decided, as soon as the circulation restrictions loosened a bit, to start preparing printed materials and to reach the communities and the streets to meet the children in our target group. It proved to be a much better solution, especially since we could invite them to come individually to our educational center to still try to have some educational process, but also to discuss the impact of the restrictions on their lives and to see if there was anything that we help with. This approach allowed us to identify the cases that needed intervention urgently and to also keep the children connected to school. We even started collaborating with some of the schools and help them make sure materials they prepared for the children that didn’t have access to technology would reach these children, since schools didn’t have any other means to contact them.
This way we managed to keep the children in contact with education and to prevent them to fail the school year, as some of them had a precarious situation and wouldn’t have passed the year if we hadn’t put them in contact with the schools.
We also reached to rural communities where we work, and there we used a similar approach. After trying, with some degree of success, the digital approach we decided to also take the door-to-door step and to actually meet the children and the families and to provide some minimum supplies (masks and cleaning solution) to make sure they keep safe. We will continue the process throughout the summer and should the restrictions relax even more we will start organizing session in small groups to still bring some games and fun to the children.
As colder temperatures settle in, the outdoord activities are no longer a possibility. Even though, so far, this winter has been a warm one, it’s still below 10 degrees outside during the day, so we take the opportunity to do some indoor activities as well.
As we started visiting rural communities as well, we are now traveling in some of these communities to do some extracurricular activities with the children over there, as well as continuing the work in the local communities.
Most of the activities we do revolve around the idea of developing children’s self-esteem, increasing their trust in their own ability, creating a more positive attitude towards school and education, discovering learning by playing etc. We also tackle topics such as children’s rights, health education prevention of alcohol use and smoking, as these are realities they face on regular basis.
The activities are run either in schools or in our educational centers and we are involving children of ages between 6 and 16. In average, there are about 3-4 activities/week to which attend an average of 15-18 children.
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