Valea Corbului is an isolated Roma community that, as they put it, „is still living in the past century”. Extreme poverty, geographical and social distance from the rest of the population, lack of opportunities, early schoool leaving, difficult access to resources – these are the main causes for one of the most precarious situation one can encounter: in the whole village there are less than 10 adults that have graduated from highschool and only 5 that have a job. The situation has gotten worse because the people did not know their citizen rights and have not asked the authorities to take the necessary measures.
However since 2015 there is a group of active youngsters eager to bring forth change. They see offering support to the children and the young a primordial thing to do, as well as increasing their capacity to work with the authorities and other interested factors in order to develop the community they live in.
In October-November 2015 the group of youngsters in Valea Corbului made an inventory of the local issues and resources. The gathered data were processed by Human Catalyst.
That’s how the project Building the Community at Valea Corbului came into being. Through it we are helping improve living standards for the locals through developing people’s capacity to capitalize on the existing resources and opportunities in order to address their own social needs and problems.
The main beneficiaries of the project are 100 children (20 of which are in 4th grade) involved in different types of workshops, as well as their parents; 13 highschool students and their families; 5 members of the local project team; 10 representatives of the local authorities and at least 5 representatives on a county level.
The project Building the Community at Valea Corbului is having a positive influence on the whole community – more than 1200 people. Also the methodology we are drawing from this initiative is a plus for the civil society and the communities where the project could be multiplied.
DISCOVER THE COMMUNITY THROUGH THESE ARTICLES:
Andra was recently in Bucharest where she saw dinosaurs. They were in a room of the Antipa Natural History Museum and they weren’t alive, ”they only had their skin on”. She also saw deers which she photographed and showed to her dad back home. They were also at that TV station, where they even went live. She even told her dad how they went up and down some stairs.
“Growing up we didn’t have any table where I could place a copybook and do my homework. I wasn’t encouraged in any way by my parents, can’t remember my mom or dad ever asking me ‘Marius, did you finish your homework?’.”
Mimi was due in one month when she went and enrolled in school in Pitești. There she could take part in the “Second chance” program, created especially for adults who couldn’t finish their studies.
Mrs Vali is one of the people in Valea Corbului who invest patience and kindness to bring people here closer to school.
Edera Racolțea takes out her XI th grade Biology textbook and sits down by the stove. She isn’t getting ready for the following day, but instead she is preparing for a far more remote event: the day she will have the entry exam for Medical Scool in Bucharest.
THE PROJECT’S IMPACT IN NUMBERS:
- 1 Community Learning Center set up in the local school;
- 46 workshops for children – 26 more than the initial planning: quilling, football, handball, mathematics and Romanian language, reading circles;
- 13 adolescents from the community are actively involved in activities for personal development and vocational guidance. They are being trained and closely supported to mentor the 20 4th graders that are part of the project as well as their parents;
- 2 out of the 4 planned workshops for increasing the capacity of the local initiative groups have been successfully carried out. Through them the project team members have managed to open a dialogue with the local authorities;
- 5 teachers have been included in the project and have active roles in it. One of them is a local counselor.
THE PROJECT’S IMPACT ON PEOPLE
„What is happening now to our children in Valea Corbului through these workshops can only fill us with joy. Let´s hope that the next generations will have more chances to complete their education, which will undoubtedly change our community for the better.”
“I would like to emphasize this historical moment for our community: it is the first time that the teachers in our school are collaborating with us, we are working side by side, as equals, for the benefit of the Roma community here in Valea Corbului.” (Marius Păcuraru, local leader)
„I got married young and only graduated 4th grade. Now I’m 34 years old and ever since I have gotten involved in this project I have understood just how important is the power of a good example. So I started school again. My little girl tells me – mommy, we’re both students now. I believe now we have a chance in life.”
“We are not alone anymore, it’s as if a hand had taken me and lifted me!” (Mimi, initiative group member)
„I am pleased to see our teachers here with us, to see that we are no longer alone.” (Nuțu)
“It is a big deal that these people [the teachers] really want to do something! Parents keep blaming the teachers. They are not right, the teachers are getting involved, they are helping us.” (Cristi)
Articles by Vlad Odobescu, photographs by George Popescu.
Project sponsored by PACT Foundation with the financial support of OMW Petrom
as part of the grant program “Ideas from Andrei’s Country”