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Participatory civism in the rural area (2008 - 2009)

1. Project goal

The overall goal of the project was to develop capacities within 5 high-schools in the rural area from 3 counties (Arad, Timis and Caras Severin) in order to initiate and implement activities that applied the practice of civic attitudes and values. The selected schools were: Liceul Agroindustrial Santana/Arad County, Liceul Teoretic Periam/Timis County, Liceul Teoretic Peciu Nou/Timis County, Liceul Teoretic “ Sfintii Chiril si Metodiu“ Dudestii Vechi/Timis County, Grupul scolar “Mathias Hammer “ Anina/ Caras Severin County.

Specific objectives were set for three different levels of intervention: institutional, student level and community.

Specific objectives addressing the institutional level consisted of enhancing the knowledge and skills of 25 multipliers (20 students and 5 teachers) with regard to methods of teaching civic education in schools, developing of teaching aids, and initiation of specific civic education projects.

Specific objectives set for high school students addressed:
-making the students acquainted with the advantages of civic attitudes and behavior;
-encouraging and promoting their interest for civic actions in the 5 rural areas;
-developing specific projects addressing elderly, minorities, disadvantaged groups.

Objectives for the community were set in accordance with the project needs. They were directed towards establishing strategic partnerships with schools and other social partners, such as PTAs (parent/teacher associations), Elderly Care Homes, Minority NGOs.

2. Project activities

2.1 Training sessions for the multipliers – “Participatory Civism”, “Multicultural Civism “

20 pupils and 5 teachers were selected for the two training sessions. The selection criterion for the teachers was to relate well to pupils. They were selected based on their availability, creativity, team-spirit and the history of involvement in community/school projects. 4 children and 1 teacher were chosen from each school. (Anina, Dudeştii Vechi, Periam, Peciu Nou, Sântana)
The “Participatory Civism” training was carried out between 7 and 10 May in Timisoara. The main objectives of this training were to enhance the participant’s abilities and help them gain knowledge about the benefits of a civic approach in solving local issues. Project management and team-work skills were also developed.
The “Multicultural Civism” training was carried out between 14 and 17 May in Timisoara. The main objectives of this training were: get to know the other, the different, to accept diversity, to approach in a multicultural manner the community issues, to improve their personal empathetic abilities, conflict management, group identity, prejudice.

2.2 Online civism (Creating websites for each high school)

In June-September 2009, 5 websites were created for the high schools involved in the project.

- www.liceulsantana.regionalnet.org;
- www.liceulperiam.regionalnet.org;
- www.liceulpeciunou.regionalnet.org;
- www.liceulanina.regionalnet.org;
- www.liceuldudestiivechi.regionalnet.org

2.3 Applied activities of democratic practice

2.3.1. Anina

a. Organizing an event

In Anina a project for the inclusion of disadvantaged children was carried out between May 15th and June 30th. The goal was not only to help the children, but also to raise awareness of the local community about their orphans and children from disorganized families. Main activities: information campaigns in the local community, the people from Anina were informed that they can donate goods to 50 children from the “Hope” Daycare Center from Anina. Information materials were distributed in the city. A “Donation Day” was organized by the extended team of 13 people, but also involving many children from the Daycare center. 65 people donated goods for the children. A celebration day and project closing was held in Anina, and 50 children participated at this event. The team managed to involve the City Hall and the local church in their activities. The 5 people team motivated another 8 volunteers in implementing this project. This project created a lasting partnership between the informal team of pupils and the center, thus more activities will be organized for the children, but funded by the local community.

b. Promoting an international day

The team of “Mathias Hammer” High School celebrated the World Heart Day on September 27, given the high rate that heart diseases hold in Romania. The slogan of the event was “Love your heart!”, while the awareness campaign consisted of: drawing contests, presentations (regarding a healthy way of life and its advantages) delivered to the pupils in Anina, the March for a young heart aimed at promoting physical exercise. The march was also accompanied by 100 heart-shaped red baloons on which the members of the team wrote with paint markers – “Love your heart!”.

2.3.2. Periam

a. Organizing an event

In June-September, 2009, the high school students from Periam carried out the “Soul to Soul” campaign aimed at making a snapshot analysis of the needs of elder people in the village.
The first step of the campaign consisted of interviewing the seniors in the village about their needs. The answers were centralized in a table that had as main columns: identification data of the interviewees, food provisions, garden tools, books/magazines, services needed as well as the interviewer’s comments. The total number of old persons who were interviewd was 41.

On the basis of the table above described, the necessary products were bought and distributed to the elders. Also the team members involved in the project provided help such as: picking grapes, sour cherries, digging in the yard, cleaning up the yard, communicating with persons who have no family left and so forth.

For having a clear evidence of the products and services delivered, the team filled out 41 assistance forms (one for each interviewee). Even though the core part of the campaign has come to an end, the team members committed to continue monitoring the seniors in the village and provide help when possible, thus ensuring the sustainability of the action and overall project.

b. Promoting an international day

The event that the team in Periam chose to celebrate was World Democracy Day (September 15). Within its frame, an info point was set up and 3 pupils provided information on 3 different aspects of democracy: multiculturalism, the opportunity to travel to other states and the right to choose. The target of the campaign encompassed 30 pupils who received badges with the name of a country (about which they could ask information) and white T-shirts that they agreed to wear for expressing their support of the campaign message. The event was a success and pupils are already thinking about how to celebrate this day during the next year. The team also prepared the web site design and the information about the project and events held within its frame as well as edifying photos.

2.3.3 Santana

a. Organizing an event

In Sântana, Pupils’ Mayor Election were held, between May 10th and June 30th. The team managed to involve one association, one local company and Santana City Hall to assist them in organizing this event. For example, voting booths were supplied by the local authorities, posters by the company, etc. Their goal was to elect a pupils ’ Mayor in order to represent the children’s interest in front of the local authorities and to prepare them to be responsible citizens. A number of 300 people voted (52 %), and a number of 2 volunteers and 5 team members worked on this project. The project was planned and carried out following the steps of election mechanism of the official one in Romania, thus a very useful simulation of real election was organized. An election campaign was held by distributing flyers and airing radio announcement on local radio station of Santana, “official” voting stamps were designed, counting and recounting took place after the polls were closed etc. This campaign mobilized an estimated number of 500 people from Santana.

b. Promoting an international day

The team in Santana chose to celebrate the International Day of Peace under the slogan “Peace for one day”. The campaign aimed to increase awareness among pupils with reference to this day and its importance, as well as to foster communication with teenagers from different countries with the help of Internet. The main activities that took place within this frame were: distributing the posters with the International Day of Peace to local and regional schools and institutions; choosing 10 pupils from the Children’s Club in Santana for taking part in a promotion of Facebook programme, delivering a short presentation on the importance of the International Peace Day; presenting the handbook for using Facebook.

The event was successful given the high participance and involvement rate and was also attended by 4 volunteers from EU (Germany, Latvia and Island) who stated that they had never taken part in such events organized by the schools in their native countries.

2.3.4 Peciu Nou

a. Organizing an event

The team in Peciu Nou chose to organize an election campaign for designating the students’ mayor. The preliminary activities took place between 1 and 21 September 2009 and consisted of drawing up the plan of the event and especially establishing the resources needed for its successful organization.
The campaign slogan was: “Don’t stand aside! Dare, run, win!” and the main promotional materials distributed in this context were the posters announcing the event to high school students. The election day was 30.09.2009 and consisted of 3 main steps: the speeches delivered by each candidate, the voting and the vote counting which culminated in announcing the winner.

b. Promoting an international day

The team in Peciu Nou celebrated the International Children’s Day on the 1st of June. Local sponsors and the local council were involved in this activity, providing them the facility for the event. An information campaign was carried out before the event by the 5 team members. Also, the children were involved in a civic action by cleaning up the park near the school.

2.3.5 Dudestii Vechi

a. Organizing an event

The team in Dudestii Vechi made a “Village Chronicle” by inviting the seniors in their locality to tell the story of their lives. A special emphasis was put on the events celebrated according to Bulgarian customs, the customs they still preserve, the wars in which they took part, their occupation, the different places to which they traveled etc. The stories were recorded with the help of an MP3 player. The interviews were held in Bulgarian, the team prepared a summary of the stories recorded and also filled out several oral history forms for having a clear evidence of the information disseminated by the interviewees.

b. Promoting an international day

The team in Dudestii Vechi chose to celebrate The International Day of Peace (21 September) by delivering speeches on the importance of this event as well as distributing 18 white T-shirts on which the text „International Day of Peace” was imprinted. The promotional campaign targeted the high school students in Dudestii Vechi who consented to wear the T-shirts during classes, for proving their support of the campaign message.

 

2.4 Conference for disseminating the project results
The final conference was held on 16 October 2009, at Hotel Timisoara in Timisoara. The event was attended by mass media and NGO representatives, representatives of the County School Inspectorates in Timis, Arad and Caras Severin and of the Regional Centre for Civic Education in Timisoara, high school students and headmasters from Timis, Arad and Caras Severin counties. These made significant suggestions concerning project sustainability, during the conference.

The event culminated in awarding the following prizes:

a) The prize for active involvement in civic projects (consisting of 20 caps on which the slogan „Because I care” was imprinted – awarded to the teams in Peciu Nou, Periam, Anina, Sântana);

b) The prize for active participation in multicultural projects (consisting of 25 umbrellas on which the text „Good afternoon!” was imprinted in five languages - Romanian, English, Hungarian, Serbian and Bulgarian – awarded to the teams in Dudeştii Vechi, Peciu Nou, Periam, Anina, Sântana);

c) The prize for the best multicultural civism project (consisting of 5 jackets on which the text „Good afternoon!” was imprinted in five languages - Romanian, English, Hungarian, Serbian and Bulgarian – awarded to the team in Sântana);

d) The prize for the best civic participation project (consisting of 5 backpacks on which the slogan „Because I care” was imprinted - awarded to the team in Periam).

Additionally, organizers awarded two prizes for stimulating the teams in Anina and Peciu Nou to carry on the activities they had begun during the project:

- The prize for the sweetest election campaign (consisting of a box of chocolates) – awarded to the team in Peciu Nou;
- The prize for the most warm-hearted team (consisting of a heart shaped box of chocolates) – awarded to the team in Anina.

The prizes were awarded after a thourough evaluation of the activities that the high schools involved carried out within the frame of the project. The evaluation criteria used were: the original idea of the event; sustainability; the extent to which the project team managed to involve the local community; the web site design and the consistency of the information uploaded.

3. Project Sustainability

The project managed to attract a sufficient amount of human resources available to continue the initiative. The 25 multipliers committed to introduce the new methods of teaching civic education and also to propose to County School Inspectorates new ways of applied civic education. Cooperation with the Regional Center for Civic Education in Timisoara will enlarge the possibility of project beneficiaries to further get involved in such projects. Due to the fact that the members of the group have undergone a series of specific trainings, they will have good opportunities to initiate new projects in the field of civic education.
The Euroregional Center for Democracy will maintain the channels of communication, mainly through the dedicated civic education websites (Civism online) that will be set in the 5 schools through this project. On this e-learning platform, teachers can run inexpensive courses for youth. The project enables young people from rural areas, to participate in a joint enterprise that develops social skills important for local activity, as well as taking up actions for the sake of their peers’ communities. Students learn by applying the knowledge imparted in interactive ways, as well as taking part in small on-line groups where, under the supervision of moderators, they share experiences, exchange opinions and provide one another with support to fulfill both the tasks connected with each module of training and conducting their local projects. The two training manuals are also very important tools of sustainability.

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