Deep in the rural areas of south west Moldova, employment levels are low and poverty levels are high. At least a third of people have no option but to search abroad to find work leaving their children alone or with grandparents who are often unable to give adequate care.
For those parents who remain, alcohol abuse is common and many children face a home life where they are neglected and abused. These circumstances push children into a negative downward spiral. Without care and encouragement many fall into a life of petty crime, many drop out of school and many are not even permitted to go to school. Children out of school are still sent to institutions in Moldova and those without education are increasingly vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking in later life.
Our Child and Community Centre works in a small rural village in Moldova to prevent children from falling into this spiral. It actively encourages the community to engage their children in what we see as the essential ingredients of childhood. Each day the centre provides children with a hot meal, computer classes, homework help, football and basketball as well as ensuring there are always staff on hand to talk to.
Through this we have seen an incredible impact.
Before the Centre was open seven children in the village had active police records, sixteen children had dropped out of school, and nine children were kept out of school by their parents.
The Centre has given children with police records a focus and engaged them in positive activities. It has run after school homework classes to support children to stay in school and excel in their work. Staff have visited homes where children are kept from school to talk with parents and to engage the children in play sessions so they can learn to integrate again.
Because of this work, three years later there are no children with police records, no children dropping out of education, and eight out of the nine children kept at home now regularly attend school.
The Centre having met with initial skepticism from the local community is now fully recognised as a positive force for change, and a strong link between the community and the school. Raisa, the school head-teacher and manager of our Centre comments: “Now I can see the old way of control, control, control, causes children to be closed. If you let children be free, they will flourish.”
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