The Alex Fund

week 6:  this week i'm gonna... give children access to school

A Romanian house

The rural village of Tarnava sits in the northern region of Romania.  44% of Tarnava's 3,000 inhabitants identify themselves as Roma, 160 families receive social aid, and 600 unemployed adults live on two streets separated by a valley.  Most houses are one-room shacks serving as bedroom, kitchen and living room for six or more people.  Toilets (even outdoors) are rare.  The parents subsist on social aid and occasional labor, collecting iron from the nearby garbage dump.

When the Romanian NGO OvidiuRo visited the village in 2012, most of the preschool age children were not enrolled in school, and the older kids rarely attended. In October 2013, the Fiecare Copil în Gradinita (FCG) program was implemented and social workers began going door to door to recruit children into the program (see below for details on the FCG program).  By April of 2014, 67 new children were attending preschool (96% of eligible children, up from 19%).  

Romanian children happy to be at school

Romanian children happy to be at school

The results speak for themselves: 67 impoverished children who had not previously set foot in a classroom were now coming regularly – and making visible progress from one week to the next.  Most importantly, the number of children enrolled in the primary school also rose significantly, which is linked to the FCG program's impact on parent attitudes and behavior.  OvidiuRo has helped to put these children on a new path and is breaking their cycle of poverty.

The Alex Fund is a US-based 501(c)(3) that supports the efforts of the Romanian NGO OvidiuRo to make quality early education available to every severely disadvantaged child so they have a chance to become active, contributing members of society.  The goal of OvidiuRo is to get every poor child into the education system at the same age that most children from middle class families enter the system: between ages 3 and 5.  

To achieve this goal, the Fiecare Copil în Gradinita (FCG) program was created in 2010.  Since then, over 6,000 children in 43 rural and semi-rural communities have benefited from early education and better nutrition.  The FCG program helps communities make early education a priority and
incentivizes the poorest parents to send their 3- to 5-year-old children to school.  Parents receive $12 in food coupons at the end of the month if their child attends preschool every day.  In Romania, the monthly child allowance (which is unconditional) is $20, so this is a significant increase for families surviving on their children’s allowance.  

Overall, children participating in the FCG program are significantly more likely to be enrolled in preschool, as well as to be enrolled in the first two levels of primary school.  They are less likely to drop out, and their attendance rate is higher overall.  Children whose minds are challenged in early childhood do much better when they enter school, and this makes an enormous difference for their success later in life. 

Please see the video below to see what OvidiuRo is doing for underprivileged children.

The award-winning FCG program has been cited as a successful model by both The Economist and the World Bank.  In October 2015, based on its results, the Romanian Parliament passed a law expanding the FCG program nationally.  Now children throughout Romania will get an early start in the education system, and all families living below the poverty line will receive $12 in food coupons every month in which their 3- to 5-year-old children attend school every day.  It is estimated that approximately 100,000 children will be affected by this and will be given access to preschool.

This is a major step forward for education and social equity.  But even as this state funding will dramatically expand the number of participating communities, it will cover only one element of the program - food coupons. Increased funds will be needed for the other essential elements of the program, including school supplies, team training, and monitoring of attendance records.  

Notes for this week:

  • February 14th is Valentine's Day - make sure to share some love!
  • Our collective givetwig donation will sponsor program costs for approximately 18 children for one year.
  • For further information regarding The Alex Fund, please check out their website.

this week i'm gonna donate to The Alex Fund.

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