EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM – ensuring social inclusion of Roma

Carpathian Foundation launches a Project that works towards ensuring social inclusion of Roma people by developing, testing and replicating operating models of early childhood development in Zakarpattia oblast. The intention is to support development of new and improvement of existing holistic approaches for improving life in Roma communities that successfully combine the creation of real opportunities, connecting of local stakeholders and the work on removing barriers between the majority and the Roma minority.

Transcarpathia has the biggest Roma community in Ukraine, which is estimated as more than 40 000 people[i]. However, some experts double this figure and believe that every third Ukrainian Roma lives there. One of the main features of local Roma community is its rapid increase within last two decades which suggests higher than average birth rate. According to the WHO children under age 18 comprise 62% of Roma population in Ukraine[ii]. 10 000 Roma kids attended schools in Transcarpathia last academic year, which is few times bigger than two decades ago. It is more common for Transcarpathia that Roma children live in a frame of traditional social organization – Roma camps. Also they belong to diverse cultural, linguistic (60% – Hungarian, 20% – Roma, 20% – Ukrainian), and religious groups. Often their parents are poor, unemployed (62%), illiterate (25%), without official documents (17%), and early married. In some local settlements up to 50% of them live in illegal housing without utilities and basic sanitarium conditions. Only 5% of Roma children receive mandatory 9-years education.

Roma community certainly is the most vulnerable part of Transcarpathian society. This strongly affects early development of Roma children, depriving them of many basic rights and opportunities such as descent medical care and housing, education and sanitarium conditions etc. Many children grow up in environment of generational poverty, total illiteracy, and social exclusion. Meanwhile the official institutions do not consider special situation of Roma children and do not tend to try new approaches. This makes Roma and pro-Roma organizations, and professionals directly working with the target group the main driving force of changes.

The project aims to support their efforts by fostering new approaches, providing micro-grants, sharing local and foreign experience, and bringing expertise. One of the key elements of the project is the cooperation with the Slovak and Hungarian partners who will assist to introduce and adopt these new approaches, as well the cooperation between grantees to make the implementation process  well-coordinated and highly efficient. Project implementation period – June 2020 to May 2021 with high possibility for prolongation. The overall budget is 100 000 euro and Porticus committed its coverage.

Target group

Recognizing the diversity of challenges to Roma ECD the project targets Roma youth (potential parents), young parents, children of pre-school age, and children of school age, as well as people who have direct impact on Roma ECD – doctors of primary care and educators. Through the mini-grants for pre-selected organizations it is planned to target directly approximately 400 children and youngsters, including pupils, visitors of pre-school institutions, children living in compact settlements; about 300 parents; as well as 50 educators and doctors.

Activity 1. Meetings and round tables with the main stakeholders (Roma leaders, NGOs, doctors in primary health care, schools). 2 Round tables and 4 meetings will be held to secure reliable communication with the stakeholders and to introduce the project.

Activity 2. Workshop for selected organizations with involvement of Slovak and Hungarian experts.

A two-day event will be organized in Uzhgorod for 20 representatives of partner organizations, doctors in primary health care, schools. The aim is to transfer knowledge and share experience of Slovakian and Hungarian partners. The workshops will be conducted and facilitated by the Hungarian and Slovak experts.

Activity 3. The study-visits of the representatives of selected organizations to the Slovak and Hungarian organizations working in the field.

The study-visits are the key activities to learn the best practices of Hungarian and Slovak organizations in the field.  Selecting the host organizations the priority will be given to the partners implementing micro-projects, supported by Porticus.

Activity 4. The micro-grant scheme. 5 pre-selected organizations working in the field of ECD (responsible parenthood, prenatal and postnatal care, school inclusion and support of Roma schoolchildren) will be supported during the first round. Second round of the micro-grant scheme will be held in the second year of project implementation under Activity 5.  The foreign experts will be engaged to review and improve the granted projects.

Activity 5. On-going mentoring for successful micro-projects implementation. Regular personal and distant (telephone and e-mail) consultations will be provided for the partner organizations in development and implementation of the micro-projects.  Regular meetings of local partners will be organized (once a month at least) to ensure the communication and experience sharing which should stimulate efficient results of the project Implementation.

Acitivty 6. Promotion and dissemination of Roma ECD approach. It is planned to hold 2 press-conferences, have 6 networking activities (meetings and round tables) with the possible stakeholders to promote the project and the ECD approach, publish around 20 articles (applicant and partner NGOs), regular news update on the web-sites and Facebook pages both of the CF’s and the partners; make of a short movie; publish best practices collection. For the successful accomplishment of the last two activities the Slovak partners will be involved as consultants.

Activity 7. Networking final event for project participants and other stakeholders to share and discuss the results, possibilities for dissemination and replications. 60 people (foreign and local project partners, stakeholders, representatives of different education and medical institutions) get opportunity to share and get informed about results of the project implementation.

Expected outcomes (long-term changes)

  1. Strong partnership of the main stakeholders working in the field of Roma ECD in Tranthcarpathia is established;
  2. Project working group participants, i.e. NGOs representatives, doctors and teachers, receive new, in particular Slovak and Hungarian, knowledge and develop practical skills applicable in their work with the clients;
  3. The capacity of Roma and pro-Roma organizations to cooperate and implement the ECD projects increased;
  4. Outcome 4 as a result of outputs 6 and 7: Community awareness on Roma social exclusion as well as the effective models of ECD of Roma has increased;
  5. In long term perspective, the quality of life of Roma children in Transcarpathia has increased.

The project is implemented in partnership with experienced and successful NGOS in the field, The partners have strong background in working with the target groups and include Transcarpathia Charitable Foundation „Blago“, acting since 2003; Charitable Foundation “Center for Civic Initiatives” established in 1996; “TOUCH Project” Uzhgorod created in 2001; Civil organization Hand of Help, created in 2011 by teachers of Uzhgorod school #14 (segregated school); and Multidisciplinary lyceum Intellect is I-III level secondary school # 11 of Uzhgorod City Council. The partners will be encouraged to communicate and make networks between each other to ensure projects’ success. Quite diverse, at the first glance, pre-selected organizations actually work at the different stages of the same process of Roma ECD and are complementary and supplementary to each other. Their activities cover the whole chain to influence ECD: responsible parenthood, medical care about babies, pre-school, and school education.  Each stage is considered as precondition for the next one.

[i] The International Charitable Organization Roma Women Fund “Chiricli” (2014). Monitoring the human rights situation of Roma in Ukraine. Country report. September 2014. P.8, available at https://www.google.com.ua/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiljbCt9_fiAhWDjYsKHUzLBMsQFjAAegQIBBAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fchirikli.com.ua%2Findex.php%2Fen%2Flibrary%2Fitem%2Fdownload%2F29_a8c31626750720d8cb85bd6b56417404&usg=AOvVaw3JoyYB5V4Pwfw_tlp_wXZj

[ii] The biggest number of Roma in Ukraine lives in Transcarpathia (2016). Dzerkalo Zakarpattia (in Ukrainian), available at http://dzerkalo-zakarpattya.com/?p=83440