Education is a fundamental human right. Most of us reading this post were lucky to receive good quality education since early childhood, but we should not take it for granted. Globally, access to early education is still a privilege – that’s what I have learned during 10 days spent with association OvidiuRo in Romania. Since 2004, OvidiuRo has pursued its mission of making preschool available to every child in Romania. Program ‘Fiecare Copil in Gradinita’ (ang. ‘Every Child in Preschool’) was established to give children born into the disadvantaged communities a chance of reaching their potential in life.
Children living in geographically isolated areas, are likely to miss pre-school education, which has proved to have a significant impact on later success in life. Entering the school system far behind their peers, children from rural areas, often from linguistic and cultural minorities, are unable to ever catch up enough to close the gap.
Having a good start really makes a difference. Early childhood education has a significant impact on development of language, cognitive and social skills and overall perception of the world. During these years a child’s self-esteem and sense of what is possible is being formed. Unfortunately, poor families are often forced to give up on their children’s education for various reasons. Sometimes parents are not aware of how important education is for the future of their children. OvidiuRo helps parents to understand the importance of early education and motivates them to send their children to kindergarten every day – despite weather, distance and other difficulties. Thanks to active recruiting, the kindergarten attendance in communities included in the Fiecare Copil in Gradinita (FCG), increased beyond the optimistic expectations. In 2012, GSK funded the addition of the health component to the FCG program. The GSK “Together for better health” grant has been recently renewed for the next 3 years to further facilitate access to early education in Romania via sponsorship of pre-school check-ups and vaccinations, and introduction of Personal Hygiene and Sanitation Education (PHASE) and development of “Summer Health Schools”.
“Summer Health Schools” lets children explore the world of health, healthy lifestyle and environment via a special workbook designed by the OviduRo team, printed with the help of GSK.
During our trip through Romania we travelled over 700 kilometers visiting kindergartens in different communities. We met inspiring teachers doing all they can with little resource available to make learning fun and to motivate kids by stimulation of their curiosity and imagination. We have talked about the great progress made in accessibility to early education in Romania and challenges which still need to be overcome. We participated in health and nutrition activities in the kindergartens to understand how GSK’s PHASE program can make a difference to the current approach to basic health and hygiene education.
Success of the ‘Fiecare Copil in Gradinita’ program, can be measured immediately by the number of smiles on children’s faces, but in the long-term perspective FCG paves the path toward better life for the communities and sustainable growth of the society as a whole. I have no doubt that kindergarten is a place where desire for better life is being sparked.
The number of out-of-school children has fallen dramatically since FCG program has been initiated.
Olena (GSK Pulse volounteer), Arina (OvidiuRo), me and our Fishbone in the OvidiuRo’s office in Bucharest. Arina accompanied us during the entire visit and she made our time in Romania unforgettable. Colleagues from OviduiRo are great professionals. Looking at the talking posters adopted for the latest donation campaign, they are definietely experts in Public Relations and communication, passionate about the importance of early education.
Our visit in Romania coincided with GSK Volunteers Awarenes Week. We decided to take this opportunity to meet colleagues in the GSK office in Bucharest. Thanks to Florentina from Corporate Affairs and the Communication Department, we could share our PULSE experience with colleagues in Bucharest’s office, discuss the recently released PULSE impact report, answer questions regarding participation in this program and share the GSK PULSE volunteer website. We had a great discussion on how to create an effective campaign promoting different volunteering opportunities in GSK Romania. Considering the level of positive energy during our meeting, I am sure we will shortly hear about some amazing initiatives. I am really looking forward to reading a blog of the PULSE volunteer from GSK Romania this time next year!!!
After 10 days, I cannot provide a 360 degrees description of Romania, but definitely this country has something magical, spectacular and original. It is a land with fabulous landscapes and beautiful, historical castles. But what is most important, Romania is rich in hospitality, kindness and generosity of its inhabitants. People I met there are courageous and strong and they truly inspire in their field. I left Romania with the appetite to discover more and with the feeling that I will come back here one day!
One more thing. If you would like to find out more about ‘Fiecare Copil in Gradinita’ and listen to the beautiful Romanian language, I encourage you to watch animation below:
Please note, that opinions and observations presented in this post are my personal reflections.