Reading a book together to build more inclusive communitiesDec 5, 2016
On the occasion of the International Volunteer Day (IVD), 5 December, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) in Kosovo supported a very unique initiative ideated and implemented by the local NGO The Ideas Partnerships (TIP) with a donation of books and school materials that were given to the Community Kindergarten in the neighborhood 28-29 on the outskirt of the capital city Prishtinë/Priština, in the municipality of Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje.
The kindergarten is a community-led project hosting around 80 children of age 3-5 belonging to the non-majority Ashkali ethnicity. Created and managed by community’s change maker members with the support of TIP, the initiative offers a complete curriculum thanks also to the crucial assistance of almost 50 volunteers from different parts of the world. Among them, around 20 youngsters from the Kosovo Albanian majority community dedicate part of their free time every week to help children learning the local language by reading books together. What may seem a minor gesture makes indeed a big difference in the lives of these small boys and girls.
“Reading a book together from a very early age is very important” says Vlora, a 21 years old volunteer. “Since it is a fun activity, it helps children to get interested in learning more things and to eventually feel more comfortable at school, with other children.”
The Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities are often indeed facing social exclusion and discrimination; discrimination that, unfortunately, starts from the early school days, affecting the most vulnerable part of the population. Despite what is prescribed by the law, these children are often denied the right to a quality education due to economic and social reasons. Extreme poverty hampers the poorest families from buying books and other school materials, making it difficult for children to attend school thus further nourishing the vicious cycle of exclusion.
This is why Art, a 23 year old volunteer, who dreams of a more inclusive society with equal rights for everybody, works at the TIP centre. “I volunteer because I strongly believe this helps children grow up being more aware of their rights. If they start feeling marginalized at school this will impact them in the future. By coming here and meeting with people from different background, they will be more open and hopefully they won’t end up locked up within their community”.
In addition to the kindergarten, TIP also provides intensive courses for more than 70 children of primary school age. The NGO assists the families in the school registration process and it provides catch up classes run by volunteer teachers. The classes help children to keep up the pace with the curricula and therefore it effectively tackles serious issue of school drop-out, which is very common across the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian community.
Hopefully, the UNV donation of books for the kindergarten children and of school bags, notebooks and other school materials for the grown up ones will help first and foremost the children to enjoy their rights to a quality education, but it will also enable the volunteers to continue their essential work.
The importance of volunteerism, which is celebrated today and is praised through the Global Applause – Give volunteers a hand campaign, is recalled by Vlora’s words: “Before I started volunteering, I didn’t like too much talking to the others,” says she. “After one year at the kindergarten, I feel I am a more open person. I hope that what we are doing here will help these children have a better future, but what I know for sure is that this experience has already changed me for the better.”
UNV praises, empowers and recognizes the Volunteers work and contribution and supports them to extend their support to the communities in need.