Denisa - ‘Expanding Horizons’
Fundatia Inocenti established an after-school program in Bistrita to help the children of Roma families. This program is designed to help Roma children to achieve their academic potential and, just as importantly, to gain the social and emotional confidence to integrate successfully into their school and community. Roma educational achievement has been historically poor in Romania and according to World Bank data; educational enrollment in primary schools for Roma children is approximately a quarter of that of non-Roma children.
Denisa is one of the first Roma children to take part in this program. Her family background is a story we hear too often. Denisa’s mother was young when she became pregnant with Denisa. Unable to cope, she left the baby to be cared for by her grandmother. Denisa has a sister named Cosmina, who is now in 4th grade. Cosmina lives with their mother in another neighborhood of Bistrita and attends a local school in Viisoara, where she is part of Fundatia Inocenti’s after-school program. The two sisters meet at the weekend and although the two sisters live apart, they are close and love each other.
Denisa had attended a Roma school for the first three years of her formal education. When that school closed, she underwent testing before being assigned elsewhere. Because she achieved good grades and showed artistic potential, she was enrolled in the prestigious Corneliu Baba Art School in Bistrita.
We have been pleased to support her success at her new school by engaging her in projects after school. Practical experiential learning activities have also helped her path towards full social integration. These activities are designed to help teach independent life skills such as “Hygiene Day” or “Food Day”; these teach the importance of a balanced diet, good manners and morality. Social activities for the integration of the Roma children – especially partnerships with other schools and kindergartens help the students to feel a part of their community. The Roma children in our programs and the children from local school have picnics in the park, visit the local library or the zoo in order to get to know the local community and to socialize with each other. The children are involved in leisure time activities – team work games, games to stimulate movement and cognitive functions, role playing, memory games and painting pictures.
Other programs have expanded her horizons by introducing her to people from the local community whom she would not have met otherwise. For instance, for our “Pass the Baton Day,” we placed children in various workplaces so they could get a taste of a specific job or career they might want to pursue. After Denisa spent her day in a medical clinic she has decided she wants to be a doctor when she grows up.
“Denisa has the potential to go far,” says Irina Varvara, the after-school program coordinator. “She is hard working, full of initiative, and gets along well with her colleagues.”
Denisa has even established herself as a valued assistant in the after-school sessions, helping younger children with their homework and special projects.