Since 2019, 25 secondary school and high school students from Bogdănești and Grivița villages, located in the proximity of the town of Bârlad have been the beneficiaries of the Future Acceleration Program – our educational intervention through which the children benefit from assistance in various school subjects such as Romanian, English and Mathematics, as well as monthly scholarships and recurrent school supplies and clothing. The purpose of this action is to reduce the pressure that exists on their families, that often prevents the parents from keeping their children in school.
Because the villages where these families live are at least 10 km away from Bârlad, the parents find it difficult to keep a constant job: commuting and the 8-hour work schedule are incompatible with their responsibilities as parents. Other families face even more complicated issues, with absent parents who either went to work abroad or who abandoned their children. Having to cope with such challenges at home, it becomes rather difficult for children to stay focused on school and onlu very few still hope for a better future.
The program helps these children find their courage, says Mihaela Zanoschi, executive director of Bună ziua, copii din România Association, our strategic partner in Vaslui county. “One must know how to use he / she gained, must dare to dream, to see that the situation you are in must not be a barrier to become the person you dream to become in the society. This is a process and we are not used to encouraging children, particularly when everything seems to go against them – their economic situation, the geography of the place where they come from”.
D. is 14 years old and lives in a two-rooms house in Bogdănești village, with his 9-year-old sister and their parents. His hobbies are playing football on the street, riding the bike and wood...
“The economic state of our village is rather precarious, many families live out of allowances or welfare”, says Anda Maria Negrea, principal of “Horia Stamatin” school in Bogdănești...
Mihaela Zanoschi founded the Bună ziua, copii din România (BZRO) Association in Bârlad in 1999, with a group of Dutch volunteers who came here to help the children from institutionalized care....
D. is 14 years old and lives in a two-rooms house in Bogdănești village, with his 9-year-old sister and their parents. His hobbies are playing football on the street, riding the bike and wood carving. He makes swords for his friends and they all play together.
“ 2020 was a year of challenges”, he says. He didn’t have a laptop or a smartphone when online school started last spring. Since he started the online tutoring lessons with the teachers from the program and he received the tablet, things came back to normal. “I would have never managed to cope at school if I hadn’t received the tablet”.
He understands what teachers explain during the tutoring lessons better than in school, mainly because it is explained better, but also because the groups are made of 14-15 children, and D. feels he receives more attention. And it is easier for them to ask when they don’t understand. “I panicked before when I was in school and I didn’t understand, but now I learned to be more patient”.
“The boy became more in control, more organized”, says his mother. “Although children are still playing outside, he comes home because he knows he has the tutoring lesson. If he studies, he may have the chance to make something of himself, otherwise he is stuck here and here is hard”. His mother is 39 years old and since she became a mother, she has been taking care of the house, of her children and the household, while her husband takes various jobs in the village. She only stayed in school by the 8th grade and, coming from a family with 8 children (“We are not an educated family, we only know how to work the land”), she wishes D. and his sister get an education. She believes the scholarship enables the boy to dare dreaming for a future where he doesn’t have to live from hand to mouth. “Now he is a good child, he studies hard, I am happy for him. He doesn’t have great results, but I am satisfied, because he was able to accomplish more than me so far”.
M. (13 years old) and A. (14 years old) are in the 7th grade in Bogdănești and they both like English and football. Although they sometimes miss the face-to-face tutoring lessons they used to attend before the pandemic (they are both enrolled in the Future Acceleration Program since 2019), they find these online lessons equally exciting and they think it is great that they both have a tablet. A. dreams to continue her education in the Military High School, a plan which is also tempting to M. because of the comfort of having a guaranteed job. Some people told her that the army is not suitable for a girl, but she will not let go of her dream, she says the ultimate test of her courage will be to apply for the Military High School in one year.
The girl “doesn’t like to be underestimated”, says the mother. “She is a good student and very understanding. Because she knows our situation, she never asks me to buy her this and that”. M. raises A. alone. The Future Acceleration scholarship received by A. came at a difficult time when her mother had no other opportunity to provide for her. The grandfather, who provided financial support, had just died and she had no social benefits to rely on from the authorities. She had no job because she had no one to leave her daughter with while she would work in town (one hour away from the village). She would take jobs by day in the village, but “it was not enough, as the child grew”. Both the scholarship and the tutoring “came at an incredibly good time”, says M. “It was a godsend. We are happy, she has good results, she struggles with Mathematics, but I will not push her. If she gets a 6-7 in school, I won’t discourage her by saying, ‘You should’ve gotten a 10!’. I encourage her to study hard to get a better grade”. The mother believes that this is her daughter’s chance to get a better education: “We can only have higher aspirations. Just because I didn’t have the opportunity, it doesn’t mean it should be the same for her. Even when she gets a lower grade, I say it is alright, you’ll do better next time”.
Sisters M. and C. live in a remote area, up a hill that becomes difficult to access even by car in bad weather – rain or snow. So, they must walk 30 minutes every morning to the school bus.
C. is 13 years old and has a passion for photography and music. She particularly enjoys Russian artists like Mia Boica and Alex & Rus. She has lately developed a strong interest in Mathematics, particularly since she has been attending tutoring. She finds that the concepts are more clearly explained, and she enjoys doing homework for school. Over the past year, she has become more confident to show what she knows, to raise her hand and overall “to do something I used to be afraid of”.
M., her 12-year-old sister, says she went through the same changes. She was nervous before when she was asked something by her teachers, now she always raises her hand. She dreams of becoming a vet, as she has been surrounded by domestic animals since she was little, and she always liked to take care of them and treat their injuries.
Their father has been raising them by himself since they were 4 and 5. Since there is no kindergarten in the village, he kept them home. He has been working various jobs in the village since the girls were little and he could take them along. Although, in theory, he could find a job in the city, it would be impossible for him as there is no one else to take care of the girls. Because they barely manage to get by, the scholarship received by the girl and the tutoring made a difference. “Our income has suddenly doubled”, N. said. “It was extraordinary. I can also see a difference in their grades in school due to the tutoring”.
“The economic state of our village is rather precarious, many families live out of allowances or welfare”, says Anda Maria Negrea, principal of “Horia Stamatin” school in Bogdănești village. “Many children get lost, abandon school, abandon the idea of high school, although they have high intellectual potential. They are forced to work by the day or look forward to reaching the age of 18 to go and work abroad, anywhere”. Mrs. Negrea has been a Mathematics teacher for 16 years and because she also grew up here, she knows the community inside out. Over the past year, both she and her colleagues have seen the progress made in the children enrolled in the Future Acceleration Program, despite the pandemic. “They are no longer shy, the additional time spent with them is clearly productive, they are more confident in themselves and their school results have improved. And the scholarship is a godsend for them. Many parents in the program have no financial means to help the children, to pay for clothes. They barely have money to pay for clothes for 4-5 children, how would they pay for the commute to high school”.
This is Irina Munteanu’s take as well, principal in the Secondary School “Stroe Belloescu” in Grivița, another village situated several kilometers away from the town of Bârlad in North-Eastern Romania. The Bună ziua, copii din România Association has selected three children from here to be part of the Future Acceleration Program. Munteanu, who has been a teacher of Mathematics in the school in Grivița for 10 years, has selected students “with potential” who, if given the opportunity to take more educational activities outside school, would be able to continue their education further on, in high school or college. The principal has seen major changes in these children. They are doing better in school, but most importantly, says Mrs. Munteanu, they speak out for themselves. They were hesitant before to speak to their teacher, but now they communicate and very inquisitive. This is what they needed: to take a stand, to make the difference between good or bad”.
Last year, Mrs. Munteanu and three other colleagues from school participated in the Teaching as leadership training program, we organized together with Teach for Romania, where teachers developed their strategic thinking, personal leadership and resilience. The sessions developed Mrs. Munteanu’s leading skills helped her take a more constructive perspective on emerging issues, “and not get stuck if it can’t be done or it is too hard”. It is often the case that 1st grade pupils have a hard time learning the letters or to write, teachers, however, should remain lenient and not show resignation, is what she learned. “Our attitude should not be focused on ‘that’s fine, I’ll work with other children instead’. We must push all the children, and even if we can’t teach them the division table by the end of the year, we can at least make order in their thoughts, and that is a great achievement, in my opinion. This is what I learned: that we should try to seek solutions”.
Mihaela Zanoschi founded the Bună ziua, copii din România (BZRO) Association in Bârlad in 1999, with a group of Dutch volunteers who came here to help the children from institutionalized care. At that time, 100.000 abandoned children were still living in large centers across Romania, part of the child protection system, and Vaslui was among the top counties with many children registered in such residential centers. Mihaela Zanoschi had just graduated from the Social Welfare Faculty when she participated in the first meeting with the Dutch volunteers who wanted to create an organization in Bârlad. For 10 years, she and the organization under her coordination have been reaching mainly to rural communities outside the town where there are many children in socially vulnerable families, with difficult access to education. Mihaela Zanoschi says that she has seen the children blossom after just one year and a half, and the team became very attached to them, to their families, the schools in the community as part of the projects carried out over the past several years from various funding sources. The communities lack the resources necessary to carry out such projects. BZRO initiates these projects with the purpose to be continued by local authorities, says Mihaela Zanoschi. “We are talking about authorities which may very well have well trained or well-meant people but lack the financial resources or have to focus more on dealing with emergencies which push the children’s needs down the agenda”.
Our partnership, which started in 2019, is very important to them as it addresses this precise problem. “The educational programs require time to monitor the children to make sure everything is done within the community to keep them in school”, says Mrs. Zanoschi.
Carmen Zaharia, project assistant with BZRO, says that when the pandemic struck, the online school was strenuous for children. They had to learn how to connect, what is a link, where to enter the password, and all these added to the connectivity issues of living in remote rural areas, with no internet signal, particularly on bad weather. “They became frustrated that they couldn’t hear the teachers, but we helped them to be patient, and kept switching to other providers for a secure connection. Most children are now able to connect and hear the teachers and this is a great achievement for us”.
Alina Ciortescu, Programs Director and the local coordinator of the Future Acceleration Program from Bogdănești and Grivița villages. She says that often children she deals with are obedient, lack the courage to speak out, have self-esteem issues and have no idea what is best for them. ”The fact that they see people, such as the members of BZRO, our team, or the teachers from the online tutoring, who look after them, who talk to them and don’t judge or criticize them, helps build up their self-esteem and courage”.
The progress made over the past year has been significant: three of them got into good high schools in Bârlad, they never missed the tutoring, they handled the transition to online school well, although many hadn’t previously used a smartphone or a tablet and helped each other during online lessons. “We want to show them that even though we all face impediments and limits, at least we try to see if we can overcome them and, if we can’t, it’s alright”, says Alina Ciortescu. “We met children who cried when we wanted to play with them because they were unable to manage their emotions, now they step forward, answer during lessons, reply to our messages, are more daring. They need to see that it is possible. If at first, they had no plans for the future, only that they enjoy learning the language or Mathematics, now they know they want to enroll in the army or become doctors, which is a great accomplishment. And the parents also became more confident because they now realize that if they support their children and stay by their side, they can actually see them lead a successful life”.
You have reached the end of our activity report for 2020.
With every story of courage discovered in the report – of the children in our educational programs, of our strategic partners, of mentors and volunteers and of our team, we have tried to convey our message about COURAGE - that was and will be a source of energy for the future! Thank you for going through the entire collection of stories about the programs and initiatives that try to generate a long term change. We, at the UiPath Foundation, will continue to be present in the lives of the children we support, to help them discover and make best use of their potential, and to ensure that every child or teacher has access to quality learning to be able to dream for a better future. We invite you and stay close to us and to the incredible stories about courage from our communities. To learn more about us and our initiatives, you can follow us here: