FAVOR's founders have been serving at-risk and underprivileged children and families in Romania and Moldova since 1996. In recent years, FAVOR has increased its efforts to alleviate the extreme poverty and harsh living conditions of families in poor rural communities, not only through material aid, but also by providing long-term educational solutions to combat the deeply entrenched cycle of poverty.
The early drop-out rate among poor rural children is extremely high, and has only increased with the economic downturn. School attendance rates are sporadic at best. Limited literacy (and illiteracy in some cases) among parents and a lack of value placed on education result in little to no homework or emphasis on studies. In the villages that currently benefit from FAVOR’s educational program, statistics show that less than 10% of eighth grade graduates go on to further studies, due to prohibitive costs and poor grades. Parents are generally resigned to the “fact” that their children will not be able to study beyond the 8th grade.
Without intervention, the future prospects for these poor uneducated children are bleaker than ever. They are likely to end up in even worse conditions than their parents. Villagers typically don't have organized, working farms or businesses to pass on to their kids and there is no employment available locally, other than seasonal work in the fields.
Without at least a high-school education, there is little chance of finding any kind of job in the city. Following the present pattern, many of the girls will likely marry in their early teens, just to have food on the table. Some of the boys will look for unofficial work beyond the border. Most of them will be exploited or fall in with criminals. Those who stay home will appeal for government social benefits and receive $50 a month, if they even qualify.
In response to the serious and compounded challenges confronting the overwhelming majority of these rural children, in 2012 FAVOR opened the brand new “Centrul Curcubeu” (“Rainbow Center”) after-school facility in the village of Marasti, 25 miles outside of Bacau.
A small, unused school building (see photo below) in Marasti was completely renovated and furnished. Once a damp, dilapidated structure, the building is now a bright and welcoming environment, consisting of two spacious classrooms, storage rooms and a modern, fully equipped kitchen.
The ample grounds outside provide space for recreational activities and events. In the spring of 2013, a large playground was installed in front of the center, to the delight of all the children. This new feature is the only one of its kind for many miles around.
Children from grades 1- 8 arrive at Centrul Curcubeu after school in two shifts, where dedicated teachers aim to inspire, motivate and encourage them on the path of learning. Activities involve tutoring in basic scholastic skills and homework help, arts and crafts, character-building games and activities, introduction to computers, and instruction in personal hygiene.
Since many of these children are undernourished and come to school hungry, the center serves a nutritious meal daily. Some activities involve hands-on skills in the center’s kitchen.
Free on-site eye exams (and eyeglasses as needed) were recently arranged for all the children when teachers noticed that many who were struggling with their reading had poor eyesight.
The launch of the new center was a collaborative effort by FAVOR and its extensive network of volunteers, local sponsors and overseas donors. A grant from Family Care Foundation supplied the custom-built classroom furniture and equipped the center with computers, printers, a large TV, whiteboards and other teaching aids, and a washing machine.