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News from Members United Way Romania and the Velux Foundations Pledge to Improve Educational Outcomes in Disadvantaged Communities

United Way Romania and the Velux Foundations Pledge to Improve Educational Outcomes in Disadvantaged Communities

by United Way Romania April 23, 2014

United Way Romania’s “Learn to Succeed” program fights school dropout and prepares 1,500 vulnerable children, teenagers and young adults for an independent life. To help them complete their education, 800 parents will receive assistance to improve their parenting skills, 180 teachers will be empowered to address social inequalities in their classrooms and 500 volunteers will be engaged in educational and mentoring activities.

At the beginning of October 2013, United Way Romania launched “Learn to Succeed”, an integrated project aiming to keep children in school, while addressing all the major players of the education system: children, parents, teachers and the community. The project marks a premiere in social services and will run as a two years program in 14 Romanian communities from Bucharest, Cluj and Timişoara, with the support of nearly half a million Euro grant received from the Velux Foundations.

The challenges facing Romanian communities today still seem overwhelming, with more than 1 in 3 people living with less than 5$ per day. Poverty has serious implications for the school-readiness of low-income children: recent figures show that only one third of disadvantaged children graduate middle school, while almost all higher income children complete this education cycle. Kids can’t thrive in school when they are hungry, when they live in poor and unhealthy conditions, or when their low or uneducated parents cannot assist them with school activities. Without a stimulating environment and parental guidance, often having their younger siblings in their care, disadvantaged children are more likely to fall behind in school, to be excluded by their peers and frown upon by their teachers.

United Way Romania, like many other communities and education experts around the world, considers that school dropout is not merely a child issue, but a deep community problem whose solving requires a collaborative intervention.

“Learn to succeed” brings together the key stakeholders in the education field – children, teachers, parents and volunteers. We aim to support 1,300 children from low-income families to stay in school and complete their education, by offering them a daily meal, homework assistance, educational and recreational activities in social day-care centers and schools and to assist 200 vulnerable teenagers and young adults in getting a job, through mentoring sessions, career counseling and vocational training. Moreover, 800 parents will attend a follow-up program including parenting classes, regular reports about their children’s progress in school and learning how to keep them on track. The program is also designed to assist 180 teachers in keeping their pupils motivated for study and dealing with the challenges of working with vulnerable children.

Further than coping with their knowledge gaps, these children and young adults need to have role models and get a glimpse of how they can change their own future. Thus we will provide the opportunity for 500 professionals from other fields to volunteer in their community schools and day care centers and participate in educational activities and events, while some of them will engage deeper and build successful mentorship relationships with a child or young adult at risk.

The Velux Foundations acknowledged the need to invest in a long-term plan to tackle one of the biggest educational challenges in Romania and thus offered to support United Way Romania in implementing this innovative approach. We found in the Velux Foundations an experienced and committed partner who understands that deep, complex social issues can only be solved through a multi-sector collaboration. This partnership paved the way for a strong collaboration with public schools, local authorities and NGOs working in the areas of education and social integration and enabled United Way Romania to secure a 2-year intervention plan. Thus we will achieve more sustainable results for our beneficiaries and for the whole community.

“It is our goal to reduce and prevent school dropout for disadvantaged children in the communities where we work and to engage the locals in this ambitious quest. Our way of work stands on the belief that “community is everybody’s business”, so we must all contribute to achieve a long term impact. To promote this approach, United Way Romania is looking forward to set an example of best practices and to replicate this successful model in the years to come”, declared Cristina Damian, Executive Director of United Way Romania.

About United Way Romania

United Way Romania is a Romanian independent foundation affiliated with United Way Worldwide. Our mission is to improve the quality of life in our communities through individual giving, corporate giving and volunteerism so that everyone can enjoy equal chances in accessing education, a decent income and health services. Along with 55 companies, almost 3,000 donors and 700 volunteers, United Way Romania helps annually more than 6,500 people at risk from Bucharest, Cluj and Timisoara, following the principle that „better” cannot exists unless it means „better for everyone”.

About The Velux Foundations

The VELUX Foundations are non-profit foundations created by Villum Kann Rasmussen, the founder of VELUX and other companies in the VKR Group, whose mission is to bring daylight, fresh air and a better environment into people’s everyday lives.
For more details you can contact us by phone at (+40) 21 306 2028, e-mail: ana.elefterescu@unitedway.ro, contact person: Ana Elefterescu, Communication Coordinator

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