Monitoring, evaluation and impact

Our mission is to support the development of programs and public policies that are smart, have impact, are designed for citizens, and are applied correctly and effectively. One way to do this is to monitor the way certain laws and national programs are put into practice – these cannot be improved without evaluations that show us what really happens at grass-roots level, and help us understand where are the problems and which are the possible solutions.

Monitoring of Law 248/2015 that stimulates poor children’s attendance to preschool through food coupons (inspired by Fiecare copil în grădiniță)

Photo credit: Johannes Kruse

In Romania there are 106.000 impoverished children who could benefit from this law, but less than 46.000 of them do. In order to understand why the state is not using this opportunity to the maximum, Reality Check has evaluated the way this national program is applied. In the summer of 2018 we talked to over 80 teachers, social workers and parents from 16 localities, about the problems they face in applying the law, and about the solutions they see. The evaluation report is here (click to download).

Our approach was to look at the factors that lead to good results regarding law implementation. Trying to explain under which circumstances the program is applied successfully offered us answers regarding the way to support localities where the program is applied unsuccessfully. Besides public policy recommendation, the study also proposed a tool to monitor the implementation of the program – this is available to public authorities to use when they go on the field.

Monitoring of Law 248/2015 is a project implemented by Reality Check with the financial support of the Civic Innovation Fund, a program developed by the Civil Society Development Foundation in partnership with the Romanian-American Foundation, and supported by Enel România, Raiffeisen Bank and Ursus Breweries.

Evaluation for impact Training

Part of ERSTE Foundation’s Regional NGO Academy Program, this training was held in November 2017 by Wolfgang Stuppert and Oana Ganea, founding members of Reality Check, for representatives of 12 NGOs from Bucharest, Brașov, Odorheiu Secuiesc, Iași and Chișinău.

The workshop presented evaluation types and methods that are available to NGOs and helped participants go through an analysis process that helped them get their organizations ready to be evaluated. They learned to decide what they want to evaluate, how to formulate the most relevant questions, to draw the program logic and the theory of change, to formulate the indicators that they will monitor and measure in order to answer their questions, and to design their own impact evaluations.

This was the first of two impact trainings delivered by our team within this project (the second training, called Measuring impact through surveys, was delivered on January 14-15, 2019). We are currently working on a training package designed to help interested NGOs improve their monitoring and evaluation processes.

Community development in Ponorâta

Through Reality Check, we continue and grow the projects started by our colleague Nadia, in Ponorâta, in 2012. This village, with a few hundred inhabitants, is one of the poorest and most marginalized in Romania. And although it may seem overwhelming, progress is visible in children’s school results and in adults’ increased ambition to lead a better life. Nadia continues to try both classical methods, and unconventional solutions to help the community solve its problems. Below are some of these.

Every child in school and kindergarten

In the 2017-2018 school year we helped 222 children attend preschool and school regularly. The children who have good attendance receive food coupons of 11 euro a month, thanks to a donation from Edfico. In addition, Kaufland helped us offer a daily hot meal to all the children who come to preschool and school.

Cristian and Van Damme, the first two children from Ponorâta ever to go to high school, have received this year scholarships offered by Romstal and Daniel Vrăbioiu. They also received bicycles that were donated to them to make their commute more fun – and more environmentally friendly.

The public bath continues to run, with funding from Romstal. It is used more and more, as in Ponorata there’s only one water pump for the 600 inhabitants. Also, since more and more adults are beginning to get jobs, the public bath is the only place where they can take care of themselves in decent conditions.

Teambuilding with fathers from Ponorâta

In September 2017 we spent a memorable teambuilding weekend in Straja, with ten parents from Ponorata, the school principal, the teachers and the social worker from the village. Ilie helped us overcome a lot of challenges together, in the New Horizons outdoor camp. The parents showed incredible team spirit in the team exercises, and had a lot of courage, but they found it more difficult to overcome their own personal limits (although a few of them were incredibly brave!). At the end, everybody committed to work to improve life in Ponorata. Some of the parents have already started doing this, by helping out with house repairs for people in the village, in November 2017.

Mini-training for effective communication for teachers

In November 2017, 20 teachers from Coroieni and Ponorâta school took part in an effective communication training organized by Reality Check and offered by New Horizons. The one-day course was based on education based on experience methodology developed by Viata program. In the next day we organized a special session for 7th and 8th grade students.

Houses better prepared for winter

With the 13.000 lei received as birthday donations for Nadia, we bought wood, stove pipes, tin and tools. With these, and two trucks with isolated tin, and second hand windows and doors donated by Romstal, with Radu Uglea’s priceless help, our main volunteer in Ponorata, and together with the parents we fixed 18 roofs and lifted walls for two rooms for families that lived in tents. It was November and really cold, but Radu, Nadia and the people in the village stayed up on the houses a whole week – and their work helped them endure the winter easier in their homes.

At the end of December, over 100 families from Ponorata also received warm blankets and bed covers, and the children who go to kindergarten got new toys, games and books. Our thanks to the 50 donors who contributed – many of them from Ebstorf (Uelzen) and surroundings. We also thank the organizers of the Johanniter Weihnachtstrucker initiative, who agreed to transport for free the 120 donation boxes from Germany.

These emergency interventions may seem small, but for these children and families, they make the essential difference between freezing or being warm in the house, during the winter, between having snow in the house or not, between having a safe roof or one that can fall on them any time. We are, however, searching for more sustainable solutions to improve the living conditions for the people in the village. Housing is a severe problem in these severely impoverished communities, and we will continue to need your help as we go along!

Christmas presents

Over 200 children in Ponorâta received Christmas gifts. Thanks to our collaboration with Our Big Day Out, Alexandra Tînjală and BRD Groupe Societe Generale, their families also received consistent packages with basic food and products to get them through Christmas. Partner in bringing joy: Urgent Cargus.

Support for the impoverished children from Castelu

We started our story in Castelu with a handfull of friends who volunteered to help us enroll children to preschool in the summer of 2017, and with a fundraising campaign for renovating a community center, that December. Castelu is a village from Constanta county, with a big population of severely impoverished Roma-Turks (horahai). Things progressed slower than we hoped, but because we have learned from our previous experience in Castelu (2010-2013), we preferred to invest more time in building our relationship with the community and the local team from the school and the city hall, and less time in pushing the renovation of a space that risks to remain empty and soulless if the local people will not feel it’s their own. Here’s what we did so far and what are our plans in Castelu.

Educational activities

In the summer of 2018 we had three play-education sessions for the horahai children in Castelu. They don’t speak very well Romanian, but their energy and joy were worth all the words in the world. They raced each other jumping sacks, they synchronized the parachute, they drew with chalk, and they tried to write. The children learned quickly basic discipline practices (how to say hello, how to wait in line, how to pay attention to what they are being taught). We formed a group of 10 older children who, with more support and involvement, could become models for the other children in the village. Thank you Andreea Vasiliu and Fruteria, who made this possible!

The Education Run

On a sunny September in 2018, over 320 children took part in the ,,Castelu Education Run”, open to all the children in the village. The runners, big and small, woke up early in the morning, got their equipment and came nervous to the start line. There were five age categories, from 3 to 18 years old, with five different running lanes. All the children finished the run and received medals, and the fastest 30 won prizes. Symbolically, the start and finish line were at the school.

Photo credit: Andrei Panaitescu

Castelu is a big and diverse village, with extremely poor areas, but also with areas where people live much better, with children with different ethnic backgrounds, who speak different languages and have different cultures and beliefs. The Education Run brought all of them together and, at least for a few hours, the differences melted and all the children applauded each other loudly, with joy and happiness.

Our thanks to Kaufland Romania for making this event possible and for allowing us to leave in the community the message that all the children are the same and that they all have the same right to education.

Photo credit: Andrei Panaitescu

The over 30 volunteers, Asociatia OvidiuRoAQUA Carpatica, BIC, BooksterDecathlon RomaniaFruteriaParmafood Group DistributionRomstal Romania and Ruvix helped us offer the children a day to remember.

Our partners in organizing the run were Castelu City Hall and School Nr.1 Castelu.

The Medical Caravan

For over a week in July, over 250 children and adults from Castelu came to the medical clinic temporary set up in the village school, to be checked and to get the right treatment if sick. The pediatric team included six doctors from Nürnberg, Germany.

The consultations for adults were possible thanks to the involvement of Romanian medics and medicine students from the Together for Rural Health project. This was the first medical caravan organized in Castelu. Oana and Carmen, from Reality Check, took over a few cases that were identified through the caravan and continue to help the children and adults who need surgery and treatment, by finding them the right doctors, escorting parents, getting them medicine and food and whatever else they need to stay in hospital and to have a good recovery. Thank you also to Adriana Simionescu, who donated her birthday and raised 3080 lei to help families in Castelu with medical tests and medicine!

Photo credit: Johannes Kruse

Update: Community center

At the end of 2017 we decided to contribute to the renovation and equipment of the Community Center in Castelu. We raised then 4000 euros, an important amount for a first try, but not nearly enough to cover the total costs for making the center functional. Since then, we draw plans with our architect friends, Adina Vârtan and Andrei Panaitescu from Icult, and we explored together with Castelu local team various options to renovate and raise funds. We had to choose between doing a few rapid, but temporary repairs, or planning a substantial renovation from the start. Together with Castelu City Hall, we chose the second option – for this, the City Hall filed a funding request to the Constanta County Council. In early 2019 the City Hall should receive the approvals to renovate and give us an expense estimate. The City Hall will handle the works, and we will help them raise the remaining funds.

Our hope is to receive also many in-kind donations (construction materials, finishing and furniture). On one side, we wished things had advanced faster regarding renovation works. On the other side, we know that community development projects need time and that they imply a process of adapting to different working styles between the partners. What we did gain in this period is the fact that we got to know better the people in the community and the local team (and vice-versa), and this is the basis for a lasting relationship in future years.

Education, education, education

In addition to the support we offer children to be able to go to kindergarten and to school, we try to open their horizon and awake their curiosity to learn, through activities that take them out of their communities, help them interact with other children and adults, and help them make their own opinions about the world. We brought together a group of very poor children from some of the communities we know, and we take them to the seaside and to the mountains, we involve them in volunteering activities, and we make them learn in fast-track learning camps. So far, they were excited each time!

First time at the seaside

For four days, at the end of may, 35 children from seven extremely poor communities swam in the Black Sea, sunbathed and collected shells, but also learned to work in a group, to write about their holiday and to help each other. They climbed walls, played football, jumped the trampoline, tried archery and played tennis. The children came from Ponorâta (Maramureș), Clinceni (Ilfov), Castelu (Constanța), Poarta (Brașov), Potlogi (Dâmbovița), Colonia Bistrița (Bacău) and Delta Văcărești (București). It’s hard to describe the joy on children’s faces when they saw the sea – and hard to believe that even in Constanta county, 30 km from the seaside, there are children who have never seen the sea!

The getaway was financed by Kaufland Romania within the Joy in movement program, in Mamaia Nord.

The Fast-track Learning Camp

In august 2018, 25 children from 5th to 8th grade went for a week in an accelerated learning camp organized in Ocna Sibiului by Reality Check and Asociatia OvidiuRo, with the financial support of Romstal Romania. The children came from Ponorâta (Maramureș), Colonia Bistriței (Buhuși – Bacău), Delta Văcărești (București) and Nou (Roșia – Sibiu), from communities with multigenerational poverty.

The children had a lot to catch up, especially since their “free” time at home means, usually, work alongside their parents. If most of them started the week barely reading separate letters, at the end of the camp they could read much easier even handwritten texts, and they could discuss about them. They also progressed in math, as much of what they learned was through games and playing with numbers.

To recap on what they learned, they took part in a race with clues, which stimulated them to use their orientation and observation abilities. At the end, the children went shopping. Each of them received 250 lei that they needed to use wisely to buy what they needed for the new school year.

Visiting Bucharest

19 children from Ponorata, Coroieni and Bran will remember for a long time the weekend spent in Bucharest in may 2018. They went to museums, they visited the Parliament Palace, walked through Herastrau park, rode bicycles, went with the boat on the lake and explored the town by metro. They stayed in a hotel and had dinner in restaurants! They went to the movies and took photos with one of the main actors from Captain America, Sebastian Stan. Wow! Everything was new and fascinating for them. Everything! They wouldn’t have left home. Even for the teachers who escorted them it was a great experience.

Ecology and volunteering

Our friends from Tășuleasa Social organized a forest planting session, where teenagers from Ponorata gave a helping hand. They faced the cold wind and participated in planting 10 ha in Tritenii de Jos, Cluj county. We continue involve the kids in such activities, in order for them to learn that it’s important to take care of the trees we plant in Ponorata as well. In their village there are very few trees and, generally, little vegetation, although it’s a hilly area and the forest is close.

The children recycle

In April 2018, the children from Ponorâta and Coroieni were part of the 23.000 students from 174 schools in 5 counties who collected, in just a few days, over 30.000 sacks (60 tones) of plastic waste! This project, “The good day – the day of young volunteers” continues the “Christmas Truck” project: the children who received presents give something back, by returning the good for their community.

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Besides these strategic directions, we supported and got involved in other humanitarian actions. Reality Check was part of the two off-road donation campaigns, for Christmas and Easter, organized by GTC MotorSport and sponsored by Kaufland România.

Christmas off-road humanitarian campaign – December 2017

Numbers: 30 4x4 cars; over 70 participants, over 8 tons of food and gifts, 310 people who received donations – 180 elderly (alone or suffering) and 130 children, from around Nehoiu and Brăiești.

Easter off-road humanitarian campaign – April 2018

95 volunteers, with 35 off-road cars, reached 280 people from the isolated villages around Nehoiu, Buzău, with 12 tons of products (food, clothes and shoes for the children, construction materials, house supplies, glasses and hearing aids). 170 adults (mostly lonely elderly) and 110 children enjoyed the Easter holidays better.

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