"Just like participants, I also enriched a relationship with my own family”
Roma cultural mediator helps participants in the workshops that are part of the EU Child Guarantee
For the success of the workshops Growing Up Together Count Us In Plus, in addition to the educators and families who are participants in the program, great credit goes to Growing Up Together activists, Roma cultural mediators, also called RAZA. They are assistants from the Roma community who help educators to establish better contact with the participants of the program and overcome possible language barriers. This kind of adaptation of the activities and the programme to the participants is the key to success and sustainability.
"Growing Up Together Count Us In Plus" is a series of workshops designed to support parents and families living in particularly difficult circumstances. It is conducted by joint implementation partners of the UNICEF Office for Croatia – Center for Parenting Support "Growing Up Together" and employees of the Center for Social Welfare Čakovec , Family Center Branch, as part of the pilot program “Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee in Croatia”, funded by the European Union.
Natalija Sklepić, a primary school teacher with preschool children, was encouraged to become Roma cultural mediator (RAZA) by the Principal of the school where she is employed.
"When the school principal asked me if I wanted to participate in the program, which is being implemented in cooperation with UNICEF and the European Union, I was reluctant at first, but I agreed to gain new experience and help myself and others. I did not expect that the workshops would have such a positive effect on parents, because we were all a bit confused at the beginning", Natalija recalls the first of 15 workshops “Growing Up Together Count Us In Plus” which take place in Pribislavec as a parenting support program. Participants are introduced to the topics of children's development and setting boundaries in upbringing, partnership, and they work on developing their communication skills.
"Although I was not a participant in the program, but a Roma cultural mediator, I learned a lot during workshops. I applied what I’ve learned in my environment and I can say that I enriched the relationship with my own family", said Natalija, who is happy to have joined the workshops because it has additionally built her as a mother and as a person.
However, the beginnings were not so simple, there were certain doubts whether there would be enough participants and those who would continue to come regularly to all 15 workshops, so she used the opportunity in her regular job at preschool to explain to parents they can learn a lot if they try to attend workshops.
"In the end, many mothers from the settlement decided to join, they did not give up and today they thank me for being their help and support in the process. We had workshops every Wednesday, during the summer and when the school year started, and the satisfaction of the participants was seen after the first few workshops when they realized how much of the knowledge gained, they could use at home. Now other moms, who were not included in this program, are asking us if there will be more such workshops because they have become interested through the experiences of moms who have gone through the workshops. Mothers who were participants are extremely satisfied with workshops and tell us how what they apply now at home in relation to children is something special. They can see exact difference in the upbringing and education of their children", Natalija emphasizes and adds that satisfied participants and the word of mouth they spread about the workshops are the best proof of program quality.
"I would like to send out a message to UNICEF and the European Union that this is a very valuable project. I would like them to continue with such workshops because parents have realized the importance of raising a child. Whatever is done for the benefit of children and their upbringing, will always be useful", concludes Natalija Sklepić.
With the main aim of reducing child poverty and social exclusion for all children across the European Union, the European Commission, in partnership with UNICEF, is implementing a pilot-program "Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee" in Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Germany, Italy, Lithuania and Spain.
Croatia was given the opportunity to pilot programme Testing of the EU Child Guarantee, in cooperation with the European Commission and UNICEF, to work on solving child poverty and social exclusion. To develop new service models and best practices for children and their families, UNICEF will use its experience, partnerships and capacities by modeling integrated multidisciplinary, adequately funded family and community services in Medjimurje County, a region with limited access to child protection and family support services. UNICEF's approach includes three components: access to integrated child protection and family support services, access to early childhood education and access to integrated and coordinated early childhood intervention services.
© UNICEF, 2021 “The information and views set out in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.”
Growing Up Together Centre and Family Center Branch, Čakovec Social Welfare Center are implementing partners of the UNICEF Office in Croatia for the implementation of the pilot programme “Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee in Croatia”, funded by the European Union.