Institutionalized children often encounter integration problems or problems with their education. They need additional help at many disciplines and they also need creative activities to help them develop and discover their abilities.
Moreover, they need affection, constant encouragement and trust. Without these they encounter difficulties in socializing and developing social complexes.
For developing emotional intelligence, stimulating trust in their own powers, capacity to concentrate and social and communication abilities, children from foster care centers need a closer approach in the learning process and they need to open up to new perspectives.
Through vocational courses, workshops, trips and outings, constant encouragements, affection and new experiences, children in foster care centers can grow GREAT! We support them on a long term in order to see their evolution.
The educational program Growing GREAT (Ajungem MARI) is trying to reduce the traumas suffered by these children such as of institutionalization, abandonment and separation from their families. We want to help them develop, enhance their self-esteem, discover their passions and abilities which can help them further on in their careers.
We do this with the help of our volunteers who become children’s friends and role-models, who help them overcome their social status, acquire values and knowledge and stay away from different temptations. Volunteers also motivate children to continue their education in order to be able to live a independent and safe life.
PRINCIPLES of the Growing GREAT program:
1) All activities are based on education
All the projects carried out with the help of our volunteers aim to educate and train children and young people from foster care centers and disadvantaged environments. For them, we organize: school recovery courses, workshops and activities to improve children’s skills, vocational courses, vocational counseling, and qualification courses.
Once these basic needs are met, we will allow ourselves to turn our attention to covering other issues, such as improving the environment in which children live and other specific shortfalls.
2) We believe in sustainable and long-term involvement
We do not encourage one day volunteering. All volunteers participate in an initial training and sign the volunteer contract. The initial contract provides for involvement in the program for a period of 8 months, with the possibility of extension. We provide the necessary support to the volunteers to help them be with the children they initially worked with for as long as possible.
Once in the program, children participate in our projects and activities for as long as it is necessary and they want our support and guidance, including after leaving the centers or moving to other centers.
3) We treat all children equally and we believe in them
We have a positive attitude towards children and we encourage everyone to believe in their chances and in our support. Every child has qualities that are waiting to be discovered and deserves to be appreciated, so we try to involve everyone in our activities inside and outside the centers. We do not encourage the organization of competitive activities, but rather collaborative ones and teamwork.
4) We totally disapprove any form of verbal or physical violence
We don’t label the children we work with. We unconditionally accept every child and we keep in mind that every behavior has a cause. Our role is to help children overcome the difficulties they face.
5) We protect the children’s image
We keep an optimistic image of children’s activities, focused on the good things they do and the results we have together. We do not use diminutives in relation with them, we do not victimize them and we do not pity them.
We do not expose children to public events, we respect their right to an image and we protect their identity. We ask their consent to be photographed and to participate in activities outside the centers.
6) We keep the balance between the activities carried out and the relationships with those involved
We involve children primarily in educational activities, with priority over recreational ones.
We maintain a balanced relationship between volunteers and children, by setting clear boundaries about what we can do in the volunteer program. We do not promise more than we can do and we understand the temporary role of volunteers in children’s lives. The volunteers’ goal is to be a mentor or role model for children, to help them discover the world, to become self-confident, INDEPENDENT and RESPONSIBLE.
Our programs do not facilitate the adoption of children and exclude any possibility for volunteers to take children at home, permanently or temporarily, on weekends or holidays!
7) We offer time, knowledge and attention
We do not give children money, gifts and sweets, not even as reward. We educate the children to learn for their future, for the joy of knowledge, because the activities are fun and exciting. If we would offer them material rewards, they would always expect something in return for their participation in activities organized by volunteers.
The role of volunteers is to help meet the education and social integration needs of these children and youngsters. We recognize the importance of material needs (many and diverse), but we focus our resources and energy on their intellectual and emotional development.
8) We are a team
Everything we do is possible thanks to the team that initiated and developed the program. Their ideas and the perseverance with which they fought for the projects to come to life brought Growing GREAT program to your attention.
We can have results with a greater impact, by expanding collaborations, involving more volunteers and coordinators. We have an open dialogue with all our partners, volunteers and coordinators; we talk about children’s needs; we adapt activities and initiatives. If difficult situations arise, we try to understand that person and the problem, and to help, searching for suitable solutions for each case.
9) We treat all people with respect and empathy
We do not discriminate, no matter the race, color, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, social status, political opinion or any other opinion. We treat animals and the environment with respect, so we do not encourage the involvement of children in activities such as going to animal circus or to the zoo and we teach them about protecting the environment.
We keep our personal beliefs (religious, political etc) private and do not impose opinions to children in any way. We can talk about our experiences, but we let them draw conclusions and make choices.