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The Best Start in Life

Dana and Laura are best friends. They were brought together by their babies. They met when Maia, Dana’s daughter, was 3 weeks old and Laura was still pregnant with her son Vlad. The two young women have been inseparable ever since. They are together all the time and they support each other. They are both in their early 20s and they have a lot in common, including the fact that their lives seem to revolve around their children.

Laura was the first to bring her son to the crèche. When Dana couldn’t cope any more with her daughter, Laura told her everything about this place and encouraged Dana to bring Maia here as well.

Dana found out she was pregnant when she was 17, in the 11th grade. She was in high school in Iasi, the largest city in North Eastern Romania, following arts and acting classes. Apart from one teacher, who was openly against her pregnancy, no one else at school had a problem with that. The school principle was very supportive, almost like a second mother. Things got worse when Dana’s mother, who was divorced, died. Dana moved with her grandmother, but she was just a teenager who lost her closest family and had been left to cope with an unborn baby. After she gave birth, she moved with the family of her then boyfriend, now husband. But her new home was in Targu Neamt, two hours away by bus from Iasi. When she was in her final high school year, her baby girl was one year old and Dana was still breastfeeding her. With the school principal’s support and encouragement she managed to finish 12 grades, although that period was one of the hardest for her: “I was leaving home at five in the morning. At seven I was in Iasi, at eight we began classes; I used to remain in the city to do my homework and at 7 p.m. I took the bus back home. When I arrived in Targu Neamt, at 9 p.m., the baby was already sleeping. All the time spent away from her seemed like ages to me”.

Dana managed to pass the baccalaureate exams, but couldn’t afford to continue her acting studies. Back in Targu Neamt, it has been difficult for her to find a job. He has been doing odd jobs and her only real support has been her husband’s family. Her daughter remained at home while Dana was out looking for jobs. “There was a time when I was out eight or nine hours a day, for interviews or looking for a place to work. It was very difficult”, Dana remembers.  In time, her mother-in-law and then her husband both left to work abroad. Now Dana is at home with her father-in-law and her daughter.

“Because Maia likes children so much and because it was very difficult for me to search a job and look after her at the same time, I decided to listen to Laura and bring my daughter here. I was about to give up when I learned that we had to pay an allowance for food, because we did not have money for that, but the crèche manager advised me to seek help with the mayor’s office. I want there and I told them about my problems and now the mayor’s office covers Maia’s costs with the crèche. I’m very grateful for that”, Dana says.

That problem was solved but the first day at the crèche brought new issues for Dana. “The first day was a nightmare for me”, she tells us. Little Maia was 2 years and 4 months old. “I told her: ‘We’re going to go to a place where you’ll play with a lot of children’. It was as if that’s all she wanted to hear. She didn’t even kiss me good-bye and she ran straight to the playground. I stood all day in front of the crèche, ready to take her home at the first signal. But at the end of the day, she felt so good here she didn’t want to leave”, Dana says.

The crèche opens every morning at six and closes at six p.m. At around 9 a.m. children have breakfast and then the carers carry out different activities with them. They play, they listen to music and dance and they learn things about themselves and the world around. Lunched is served at noon and then the children take a two hour nap. At around 4 p.m., after the afternoon snack, the first parents come to pick up their children. “Children coming here make visible progress in a very short period of time”, the crèche manager says. “The trainings within the project are really helpful for us, because they brought us new information on children’s education and we have now a new, more modern perspective on the needs of small children. Also, when the classrooms will be fully equipped and furnished, we’ll improve our interaction with the children and the daily activities will become more attractive to them”, she declares.

For almost 20 years, this has been the only crèche in Targu Neamt, a town of roughly 20,000 people. 50 children aged between 1.3 and 3 years are enrolled, divided into three groups. With help from UNICEF the entire crèche in Targu Neamt will be transformed into a Multifunctional Centre. For this, a partnership was created with the local authorities (Mayor’s Office, The County School Inspectorate, the Public Health Directorate and the Public Service for Social Assistance) and the mayor’s Office will cover the participation costs for 15 children from socially and economically vulnerable families. The crèche staff was trained in order to increase their competencies, in accordance with the latest theories and best practices in young children’s care and education. The parents will receive counselling on child rearing issues during monthly meetings with specialized professionals. Also, three classrooms will be equipped with specific furniture and materials meant to support learning and the positive interaction among children and between children and adults. In every classroom there will be a space dedicated to painting and drawing, one for reading, one for physical exercise and a corner for building – all very friendly for the children.



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