Alex, 14 years old, is well-known in his school due to his good results and the time and energy he has dedicated to bring changes in his community. Life in his village, situated in southern Romania, has never been an easy one. The area is known for its poverty, lack of employment opportunities, limited and expensive opportunities of commuting to the city. In 2002, when Alex's community became part of World Vision’s sponsorship programme, peoples’ hearts filled with hope and joy and considered this opportunity as a new beginning.
"I remember, ten years ago the school had major deficiencies such as lack of proper sanitation, lack of extracurricular activities, and inadequate educational conditions. With World Vision’s support we managed to build toilets, to equip the classes with furniture, the kindergartens with educational games and toys, the laboratories with adequate materials. We set up playgrounds and a Children Club, where children met to participate in educational activities. Their lives changed significantly; they started to participate in competitions, to discover and develop their abilities," said Maria S., who was a teacher at the beginning of the programme and for the last 8 years she has been the Deputy Mayor of the community.
Alex lives with his little sister, Otilita, 10 years old, his father and his grandmother. Five years ago, his mother found an opportunity to work abroad as a housekeeper and accepted the job, constrained by the fact that they needed money and hadn't found a job in their community. She comes home on winter holidays and sometimes during summer time. ”At first, it was very difficult to know that she was so far away, I could hardly bear the feeling. Then, I started to concentrate on my studies, hoping to make her proud of me. I know that she is there for us," says Alex.
Alex became part of World Vision’s sponsorship programme when he was in kindergarten. As a small child he enjoyed a lot the days when they received gifts. In Alex’s community, there are 350 children and all of them received clothes, shoes, school supplies, sweets and gifts on Christmas and on International Children’s Day: "We didn't have toys and sweets were a rare thing. So, every time we received something,it was pure happiness," recalls Alex.
Annually, with the support of the doctors from partner communities, World Vision organised a Health Education campaign in schools and kindergartens. Alex, along with all the children in his school, participated in awareness sessions regarding the importance of personal hygiene and a healthy life style. They also receive a hygiene kit, consisting of a toothbrush, toothpaste, towels, shampoos, soaps. In order to ensure an appropriate medical service, World Vision also contributed to the rehabilitation of the local dispensary and equipped it with the necessary medical equipment.
"With World Vision’s support we managed to transform our dispensary into a friendly and adequate place to treat people. We have new furniture, windows, linoleum, and access to running water. Among others, we received stethoscope, sphygmomanometer, glucometer, multifunctional printer for printing recipes, observation sheets. Besides, the awareness sessions held annually with children were a necessity, as they weren't aware of the importance of personal hygiene and neglected to wash their teeth daily or their hands before a meal. They have now corrected their bad habits and take proper care of themselves", says Marinela M., doctor in Alex’s community.
The strongest connection between Alex and World Vision started when Alex was in the fifth grade and became a member of the Community Initiative Club.
"When I started going to the Club I was a shy and introverted boy, afraid to talk in front of the people and make my ideas heard. Because I felt comfortable at the club, I attended the activities regularly. In time, I learned to express myself, to say what I think and what I want for me and my community." says Alex.
The Community Initiative Club is designed to help children become agents of change, to write and implement projects in the benefit of their personal and community development. "I really liked the idea to write projects and put them into action. My favourite ones are those through which we managed to help children and people in need from our village. On Christmas, we painted icons on glass, sold them and bought presents for 52 poor children. On Easter, we did the same project, but this time we brought joy to the old and lonely people in our village," remembers Alex.
Other projects were also written addressing the different needs and problems in the community. "In our community the water is not potable, being rich in nitrites, nitrates and other germs. As children didn't pay attention to this problem, we thought to do something in this sense. We organised a flash mob in our school to draw attention on the risks of drinking brackish water and with World Vision’s support we purchased a water dispenser that is regularly supplied by a specialised firm with fresh and potable water. Children in our school have now access to clean water and no longer put their health at risk," says Alex.
At the Club, Alex and his mates had the chance to discover their talents and because many of them had acting abilities they formed a theatre troup. They started organizing plays on different celebrations and invited their colleagues from school, parents, community members and local authorities at the events.
"Their initiative brought people together. Every time they perform a play, it is a moment of celebration in our school, but also in the entire community", says the school director.
Being an active boy and having excellent results at school, Alex participated with World Vision in different exchange activities and also in the World Vision Summer School.
"I took part in different workshops where I learnt to take initiative, to speak in public and to work as part of a team," recalls Alex about his experience in the Summer Camp.
In Alex’s community World Vision also conducted awareness campaigns and informing sessions for the parents on the importance of education, child nutrition and hygiene, physical and emotional development, children rights and child protection.
"Taking into consideration that information sources are limited in rural communities, the courses and awareness campaigns for parents are very useful. They acquired healthy lifestyle habits that they practice in their homes. Mothers pay now special attention to the health of their children, being able to identify situations where medical staff should be alerted and they are also familiar with proper nutritional and hygiene rules for their children," says Madalina C., World Vision community worker in Alex’s community.
This year is very important for Alex, as at the end of this semester he is going to have the national evaluation for highschool admission. Even if life in the bigger cities is different from that in rural communities, Alex is ready to start this new chapter of his life and he is positive that he will be able to keep up with the his new colleagues.