“The opportunities are unequal”. A story about the life of vulnerable children in Romania
The Integrated Community Centers can offer to the vulnerable children a chance to a better life
High voices and laughs sound out in the Colonesti Integrated Community Centre. They all come to a halt at once and seven pairs of inquisitive eyes now gaze at the door. All the children have put aside their markers and they are looking wide-eyed at Horia Tecău, the men’s doubles tennis world champion. Never before have they seen such a tall “superhero”, neither in flesh and bones nor in the cartoons they watch together on the TV set in the hallway.
Horia sits on a stool by the table and starts modelling all sorts of plasticine figures together with the children.
Only four-year-old Ioana stays true to her markers. She meticulously colours Christmas trees, though the holidays are long gone. She is totally focused, and her eyes never leave the drawing paper. “My parents are not at home, they work. They must earn money so we can live”, says Ioana earnestly, as she colours away.
All these children go to the Colonești school or kindergarten and sometimes they meet at the Integrated Community Centre, set up to provide specialised educational, social and medical services to vulnerable children.
It’s been snowing in Colonești. Snow is still heaped up by the roadside – another reason for play and merriment for the village children.
“I didn’t go out with the sledge. We haven’t got one. But I’d like to”, says Anuța sighing. Then, she continues to press the plasticine with all her strength.
The vulnerable children will receive long-term help at the Colonești Integrated Community Centre. With the support of the local community teams, the children of Colonești will have access to inclusive, quality education and community-based social and medical services.
“I feel emotion, compassion but also a great joy seeing the children. At the same time, I am aware of the environment they live in, of their lack of opportunities. This prompted me to join the projects implemented by UNICEF. It hurts to see that they are deprived of basic opportunities that any child should have: hygiene, education, healthcare, physical therapy for disabled children”, said Horia Tecau, National Ambassador for UNICEF in Romania, during his visit to Colonesti.
Horia continues his journey and stops next by the house of Nicoleta, an eight-year-old girl suffering from spastic quadriplegia and developmental delay.
Nicoleta doesn’t know many words but is all smiles. She is happy to see Horia, whilst her younger siblings, Ana and Fabio, look at him shyly.
They all live in a small room and sleep on the same bed. They don’t have a TV set but are keenly waiting for their brother Ionut to return from school with new stories.
Nicoleta is always at home, since she is in constant need for therapy, rehabilitation and investigations. Yet the lack of money and means of transport to Bacau have long held back any progress that Nicoleta could have made.
“Before, we’d take her to Bacău, but now, with the opening of the Integrated Community Centre, is the first time that Nicoleta will have access to kinesiotherapy so close to home”, says Nicoleta’s mother.
At the Colonesti Community Centre, Nicoleta and other children like her will have the opportunity to undergo specialised treatment and kinesiotherapy, critical for rehabilitation.
During his journey in Colonesti, Horia also stops by Adina’s house. The entire courtyard is frozen, yet the cold doesn’t put off Adina’s siblings who come out in pyjamas to greet the guest.
“Adina is at school now. She should be back any moment”, says the mother, holding in her arms Pavel, the younger brother, aged two. Meanwhile, Delia, who is five, is hiding behind her mom and looking through her fringe at Horia.
Claudiu, who is eight, is also in the house. Though it is Wednesday, Claudiu is staying home. He didn’t want to go to school. He looks down, sighs and says he never managed to learn the alphabet.
“He doesn’t want to go to school any longer. He told me he’s had enough of walking in the cold and wait as long as two hours for the bus. Sometimes he has to wake up at 5 to make it in time to school. So, today he asked me to keep him at home”, says the mother. „Adina isn’t like this. Whether it is raining or snowing, she never misses school”.
Last year, Adina got the first prize for her school performance, and this year she is determined to continue the tradition. She wants to bring home another diploma and a medal.
Adina is the seventh of nine children. Her mother’s greatest wish is that all the children go to school, but they don’t get it easy.
Adina shows up in the distance, walking to the house on the frozen road. Alongside two other children, she struggles up the hill that is still covered in patches of snow. Her hands are red, her cheeks are flushed, and her countenance shows sadness.
Upset, Adina, who has once more endured the cold, says: “The bus was late again”.
The local community team from the UNICEF programme, comprised of a social worker, a community nurse and a school counsellor, continue to support Adina’s family. They provided guidance and help every time the family was in difficulty.
“Having met the children and having seen their dwellings, having looked at them… I see that they are shy, they like to play. I was like them too, when I was a child. Their opportunities are unequal. Just as I needed a break to achieve my dream, these children need opportunities to lead normal lives and achieve their dreams”, says Horia Tecau.
Adina’s and Nicoleta’s chances to progress depend on their access to health, social and educational services. And the local community teams from the UNICEF Programme “Romania for every child” provides access to much needed services to vulnerable families.
Through the establishment of the Integrated Community Centers, UNICEF supports vulnerable children by delivering specific solutions aimed at improving the accessibility of medical, educational and welfare services. And all these services will be provided in special centres that will be closer to their homes.
UNICEF and its partners are implementing this project in its entirety, from compartmenting the centers’ buildings, to fitting the rooms (appointing with furniture and suitable equipment for the delivery of services) and the outdoor areas such as to provide a space that is not only functional but also friendly to the children and their families, and to identifying and recruiting the professionals capable of delivering the required services in the centers.
The Integrated Community Centers are part of the initiative “Romania for every child. Making social inclusion real - breaking the cycle of exclusion for the most vulnerable children in Romania”, supported with a 4.2 million Euros grant by Norway Grants, under the Local Development Programme managed by the Romanian Social Development Fund.
The project aims at contributing to the social inclusion of all children and teenagers, in particular of the vulnerable ones, through the provision of quality, fair and coordinated health, education and protection services (integrated and specialised community-based services), as well as though safeguarding social rules.
The UNICEF partners in the Project are: Bacau county Council, General Department for Social Attention and Child Protection Bacau, Bacau Public Health Department, Moinesti town hall, Bacau town hall, Colonesti village hall, Corbasca village hall, Primaria Brasov town hall, Brasov Social Assistance Department.