Community Development in Ponorâta
For almost five years now, Ponorâta has been Nadia’s adopted village – over 550 people, out of which two thirds are children, whom she insists to help get out of the extreme poverty and isolation they live in.
The development projects of this village in Maramureș started in 2010, when the school in Coroieni (the locality that Ponorâta belongs to) applied for OvidiuRo’s Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță (Every Child in Preschool) program. In 2012, when OvidiuRo closed its program in Ponorâta, Nadia continued it on her own, with the support of some friends. In time, the results were visible and more and more companies started to get involved, as well.
Ponorâta is one of the most disadvantaged communities in Romania (probably among the first five in the country). When some of us started to work here as part of OvidiuRo’s team, the poverty here left us speechless. So did people’s isolation – the settlement was formed about 30 years ago when, following some crimes, the Roma were thrown out of their village and took shelter on a hill, 3 km away from where they used to live. Many years they lived without electricity, with only one water pump, hated by their neighbors and without any kind of education or care.
In 2007, the school was built, and with it came electricity. Even so, in school attended only 10 out of about 80 children, and in preschool, about 10 out of 50. The kids had rugged clothes and were so unwashed they were literally black, and the parents, completely lacking any kind of education, were simply unable to understand the concept of “daily” attendance.
Since 2010, with Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță, things started to change. OvidiuRo invested a lot of time in developing the local team to increase children’s access to education, and incentivized parents to ensure their children’s attendance to preschool through the food coupons of 11 euros a month. Preschool attendance increased abruptly from 10 to 46 children.
Since 2012, Nadia has been raising money for the program and monitored its course, on her own. In 2014, she managed to obtain funds for food coupons conditional on attendance for school children, as well. School attendance also increased rapidly for children from grades 0-IV, from under 30% to over 70%.
In 2015, Romstal invested in a public bath in Ponorâta – a modular construction with three shower cabins, two toilets, two washing machines and two driers. The City Hall built three more water pumps in the village. From donations, a man from the community takes care of the bath, schedules the people and ensures that things function well.
Also in 2015, the City Hall, in partnership with a foundation from France, built a day center where children can do their homework and receive a hot meal. In 2016, after the funding for this project ended, Nadia obtained from Kaufland funds for hot meals for the 165 children from preschool and school. With support from Romstal, children receive also school supplies, and those who go daily to school in grades V-VIII in Coroieni and have good results, receive scholarships. At the end of every year, Nadia and the teachers evaluate the children, and those with the best results go to summer camps – a group at the Pedagogical Forest of Tasuleasa Social Association, and a group at the Life Project of New Horizons Association. Being out of their community for a few days, to do educational and team-work activities, has a very good effect on children.
The children also receive food and clothes from Edfico, and consistent Christmas and Easter presents from many individual supporters.
In 2016, Nadia and the Tasuleasa Social team talked about organizing a medical caravan with doctors from Germany, from Die Johanniter organization. This became reality, despite the big distance, and Romanian volunteer doctors and medicine students joined the German ones. This summer, as well, a group of German and Romanian doctors will join the summer programs, with health and hygiene activities for the people in Coroieni.
The changes we see
- Many children in the third and fourth grade can read and write fluently – this was unimaginable in 2010. The children in preparatory class and first grade write beautifully, and those in second grade have started to read well.
- From the 12 children from Coroieni who qualified for the national evaluation exam, 8 were from Ponorâta. Out of them, only two, Cristian and Jean Claude Van-Dame, went to the exam. Even if their grades were below 5, the fact that they finished 8 grades and were determined to take the exam is remarcable!
- The children come to school much cleaner and there are a few people from the community who use the public bath at 4 AM, before they go to work. This summer Stana, from the poorest family in the village, has asked us, shyly, to buy her some shampoo for the shower, because she ran out. When we met her years ago, Stana was a cute little girl, whose spikey hair seemed to have never ever been washed.
- In 2012 nobody from the village had a job (or any kind of qualification). Now more and more people are getting hired by Taparo, a local furniture producer for Ikea.
- In 2011, the people from Ponorâta started to go to France. Many of those who return build better houses and are more interested in their children’s education. If in 2010 all the houses, except two, were merely run-down, shabby shelters, now there are also many houses built from bricks and covered with metalic tiles. In 2016, about 30 out of the 100 families had proper electricity contracts.
- June 22 – summer school teacher training organized by OvidiuRo in Bistrița
- June 25-30 – 15 children with good school results went to summer camp at Tășuleasa Social
- July 9-14 – other 15 children with good results went to summer camp to the Viata Program in Straja
- July 17-21 – medical caravan with volunteer doctors from Die Johanniter and Romanian doctors and students
- July 17-28 – Summer workshops for all the children – focus on health, hygiene and nutrition
- September 23-24 – 10 adults from Ponorâta (with potential to have a good influence on the community, with children who attend school regularly and have good results), the school principal, social worker, a preschool teacher and a primary school teacher, and two members of Reality Check attended a team-building workshop organized by our friends from New Horizons Foundation in Straja.
- October 26-27 – 20 teachers and the children from 7th and 8th grades from Ponorata and Coroieni took part in a training on efficient communication, based on the methodology of education through experience, held by our friends Ilie and Jack from Fundația Noi Orizonturi.
- October 30 – November 4 – roof repairs – with the funds raised by Nadia as birthday presents, we bought construction materials and tools. Radu Uglea, teacher in Coroieni and an old friend of Ponorata, volunteered to help 16 families to replace their roofs and get through the winter easier. Of great help were also the isolated tin, doors and windows donated by Romstal.
Plans for the future
- Home improvements – to continue in spring 2018 – if you would like to support our fundraising campaign for this project, you can do it by donating here or on our Galantom page.
- Attract a Teach for Romania or similar teacher at Ponorâta school. Many of the children in Coroieni who reach 8th grade are functionally illiterate. Despite their fantastic efforts to go to school until the end of 8th grade, at the national evaluation, the two children from Ponorâta who took the exam obtained 3,82 and 1 (minimum to pass is 5).
- Education through sports
- Social canteen
The projects in Ponorâta are run in partnership with the school and City Hall in Coroieni. Until this year, they have been organized by a group of initiative formed of volunteers, under OvidiuRo’s umbrella. From September 2017, they will run under Reality Check’s umbrella.
Local team: Gavril Ropan – mayor, Liana Lazăr – school principal, Sînziana Șanta – primary school teacher, and local coordinator for the educational programs, Liliana Filip, Luciana Vecleniț, Antonela Mariana Danciu – preschool teachers, Maria Lucia Bucșa, Viorica Perta, Nadia Vele – primary school teachers, Garofița Moldovan – school mediator, Romeo Moldovan (Ciuli) – public bath supervisor.
Initiative group: Iolanda Burtea, Stefan Freytag, Nadia Gavrilă, Simona Ilaș-Kruse, Elena Mocăniță, Alina Seghedi, Timona Cioinea.
Volunteers: Bogdan & Vlad Filip, Corina Uglea, Radu Uglea, Liliana Loghin, Radu Mihaiu, Nicoleta Popa, Ramona Galu, Oana Stănescu, Diana Stoica, Oana Tomozei
Photographers: Sean Gallup, Bogdan Pastor, Adrian Scutariu, Daniel Vrăbioiu
Supporters: Roxana Chiriloi, Enrico Perini, Anastasia Staicu, Alexandra Tînjală
Donors: Iolanda Burtea, Stefan Freytag, Nadia Gavrilă, Simone & Rolf Jaeger, Alina Seghedi, Oana Stănescu