The perseverance that can overcome any fear
For some children in rural areas, moving to a city away from their family can be overwhelming. Some drop out school, others become stronger
She introduced herself as Florentina, although her mother and two sisters call her by her middle name, Roxana. She recently turned 16.
We met her on a sunny yet winter-flavored day in March, at her home in the village of Negulești, which is part of the Dealu Morii rural community. The house is located in a more isolated area of the village, standing on the top of one of the hills surrounding the city of Bacau, more than an hour away from it.
Even though she couldn'd commute daily to Bacău, this did not prevent Florentina from continuing her studies at the high school she really wanted to attend in Bacău - "Vasile Alecsandri" National College, at which the competition for admission is high.
It would have been such a pity not to follow her dream, as she is considered by her teachers an exceptional student. Last year, she successfully participated in the County’s Physics and Biology Olympics. The Math Olympics was also on her list, but it was postponed due to the pandemic.
The unconditional support that she received from her family was essential. It gave her the strength she needed.
Therefore, when she decided to continue her studies at the high school in Bacău, she overcame her fears of moving away from her parents and, especially, from her two younger sisters she simply adores - Enya, who is 9 years old, and Cristina, 13 years old.
All three of them are passionate about math and they speak with admiration about their teachers who likely instilled that interest in math.
Becoming independent at the age of 14-15 requires a bit of help
Florentina happily shares her room with her sisters, although there is only one bed, a wardrobe and a desk. At the school dormitory, however, she has six roommates.
In her first year of high school, she was very nervous about this major change in her life. Yet, it took her only a month to adapt. Florentina had a good relationship with her roommates from the very beginning. They were in the 10th grade and let her study peacefully. They fully understood and respected her educational needs and that mattered a lot to Florentina.
During her first year of high school, Florentina received the support of a mentor from the UNICEF program "Together for the Future", carried out with the Ministry of Education, the "Împreună" Agency and the HoltIS Association.
This mentor was a schoolmate from the 10th grade. Before the pandemic, they used to meet quite often. They talked a lot and had a rich agenda of activities to enjoy after school.
"Together for the Future" program helped her overcome her shyness. "At first, I was very shy. Maybe it’s hard to spot this now. I couldn't even speak, even if I tried. Words came chaotically out of my mouth. This program helped me a lot to develop myself”, said Florentina.
She pursues her dream with a determination that motivates her to push her limits to a higher level.
Now, in the 10th grade, as much as she could before the pandemic, she shared the room with her classmates. She found that relaxing, but due to the pandemic the school moved online „way too soon”, concluded Florentina.
At first, I was very shy. Maybe it’s hard to spot this now. I couldn't even speak, even if I tried. Words came chaotically out of my mouth. UNICEF's `Together for the Future` program helped me a lot to develop myself.
The first experience with online schooling was difficult even for an agile student
“I was demoralized; at first the teachers were not prepared for that either. I was used to in-class schooling - I understood much better what the teachers were saying and I learnt together with my classmates. Offline the time flew faster and learning was not that tiring for the eyes”, said Florentina.
However, her strong curiosity and perseverance help her get through such situations faster and easier. She is now feeling more comfortable about her online schooling experience. The advantage it offered to Florentina was that she got to spend more time with her family and help her sisters with their homework, which she enjoyed immensely.
During home schooling, she used to wake up every morning around 6, to braid Cristina's hair "because she doesn't leave home without me braiding her hair", said Florentina cheerfuly. She also helped her mother tidying up the house before preparing for classes. "We got so much homework!", she told us.
The Internet connection was a major hurdle, but the parents did not give up until a solution was found, even if that meant the rooter had to be placed ”somewhere up in the bathroom” to get good signal.
Through their parents’ efforts, the three sisters had everything they needed for online schooling.
Florentina's father works in Onești and commutes daily. The family relies on one salary a month, the girls' allowances and the resources generated in their own household. Her mother takes care of the household most of the day.
Even if some of Florentina’s schoolmates dream about leaving Romania for good, Florentina is determined to stay in the country. "To change certain things," she said with determination. "I want to be a good doctor who pays high attention to every single patient."
Empathy should be compulsory in some professions
Florentina wants to become a pediatrician. She aims to offer a different type of experience to the children she will treat, much better than the one she had as a child, when she spent six months in a hospital in Iasi. "I was telling the doctors that I had terrible pain, but they didn't believe me. And that drove my ambition to become a doctor who will listen to the patients, understand them and try the best to find solutions to their problems”.
That's when she decided her future career. She chose to study Natural Sciences at the "Vasile Alecsandri" National College in Bacău because she aims to continue her studies at the University of Medicine in Iași.
Florentina was born with a disease that affects her joints - Juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
"It's hard for a child to suffer and endure all this pain", said Florentina with sadness.
The doctors told her that her pain was caused by the natural growth of her body and did not understand her suffering. So far, she suffered five fractures and was initially diagnosed with „glass-bone” disease.
Recently, she found out that she also has a genetic disease, just like her sister Cristina, which affects her heart.
She talks passionately about school, about the extracurricular activities in which she happily participates and from which she tries to learn as much as possible. Her health problems do not set her back from the path she is determined to follow. She looks at all her problems with some kind of detachment, although one can feel in her voice the worry she is trying to hide.
She dreams about going to the sea, because she likes the heat. For now however, the family's modest income goes on medical treatments and the daughters’ studies. Happilly, there is a lot of harmony in their family, and that is what matters most. The valuable role of the parents is greatly felt.
Children who have their parents’ support are simply „growing wings”
Florentina’s mother, Geanina, got married at the age of 17, and a year later gave birth to Florentina. She is content that at least she got to finish high school, but she wants much more for her three girls.
‘I shouldn't have gotten married so early. It’s not because I ended up bad, as I was fortunate to have found an extraordinarily good husband, who offers us absolutely everything we need. But because it has been very hard... It’s ok to get married, but people should live their childhood, because that's the most important thing. One never experiences childhood again’, said Florentina’s mother.
Geanina communicates very openly with her daughters. She tried to shape them as she knew and felt best. She was forced by circumstances to grow up faster.
"You have to understand your children and they have to understand you, so that together you build a good communication between parents and children. That matters a lot.’, says Geanina.
During 2017-2019, she participated in two parenting sessions organized by the HoltIS Association within the UNICEF program "Together for the Future".
These were greatly useful to her. It gave her the confidence that the way she raised her daughters was the right one. She also learned new things, which she is trying to apply in her parenting responsibilities.
The education of her daughters is an absolute priority to her. Before a dedicated minibus was put in place to transport the children to the school in Dealu Morii, the mother took Florentina to classes using hitchhiking.
"I spent a lot of time on this, but as she had to go to school, I did my best to go with her. Once, it rained so hard that the chickens in the yard were taken away by the water. But it didn’t matter in the end. School was much more important’, said Florentina’s mother.
Since the beginning of this academic year, Florentina has been part of the HoltIS Club, an initiative of the Iași HoltIS Association, within the "Together for the Future" program. The activities that were the carried out exclusively online, helped teenagers, among other things, to find their vocation for the future profession.
This is how Florentina found out that her dominant intelligence is the logical-mathematical one.
Florentina tested at home, with her sisters, all the creativity and communication games that she learned at the HoltIS Club. That's how Enya discovered, at the age of 9, that she likes "personal development", right after math and sports.
Enya is a joy, full of smiles. She has a fantastic energy. She sees her older sisters as role models. Especially Florentina, who ended up studying at the high school of her choice, due to her will, discipline and perseverance that she exhibits routinely.
Everyone in the family feel grateful that they have each other and do not complain about anything. They enjoy thoroughly every moment they spend together and support each other unconditionally. For them, this is happiness.