Community Work Programme in Pehcevo: Transforming the Lives of Children and Adults
Parents and young children in the small town of Pehcevo have recently seen a major improvement in their quality of life with the opening of a new nursery group for children aged 9-24 months.
For over twenty years the town had no preschool facilities available for this age-group of children, making life difficult for working parents and parents seeking jobs—especially those without additional family support.
Thanks to the collective lobbying efforts of parents and the willingness of the Municipality of Pehcevo to listen and respond to their problems, the creation of a nursery group became the objective of a Community Works Programme launched in 2013.
The reactions of the parents whose children attend the new nursery are unanimous: they say the new service has made a difference to their whole families. The children have an opportunity to socialize and learn while the parents are now able to work or look for employment.
“Since my son started going to nursery I finally have time for my career,” says Stanka Stamenovska, the mother of a two-year old boy attending the nursery.
“Finally we don't have to organise ‘granny service’ every day!” says Stanka. “And knowing the children are in safe hands means we can get on with other chores and work without feeling worried.”
Like many of the Community Work Programmes implemented throughout the country, the Programme in Pehcevo was designed to tackle multiple issues at once. The new kindergarten services have not only eased the burden of childcare for parents and helped further the early social integration of young children but also opened up job opportunities for long-term unemployed people in the municipality.
Three young unemployed women from the town—Ivana, Biljana and Ance—were hired as preschool nurses to work in the kindergarten.
“We jumped at the chance to get work experience,” says Biljana. “It’s hard enough finding any job these days, but to get experience in the profession you really want is really rare.”
“It’s great to be able to do the work you love in a nice environment,” adds Ivana. “We finally had the opportunity to put our education into practice.“
The enthusiasm of the new recruits quickly won them trust and popularity with the parents and children who benefited from their services. The highly positive reactions of the parents has helped ensure that all three women have now gained full-time employment in the kindergarten.
Ljupco Karakasovski, the municipal coordinator of the Community Work Programme in Pehcevo, puts the success of the nursery project down to joint municipal and community efforts and the implementation of an integrated model. “The common efforts of all stakeholders have contributed to a major improvement in the services we provide for young children.”
Efforts to improve the care available for the youngest in the municipality have not ended with the completion of the Programme. Increased awareness amongst parents of the benefits of early enrolment of their children at preschool facilities has spurred demands for rural children to be included as well.
The Community Work Programme was launched in 2012 and has been hugely successful in achieving its twin aims of tackling social exclusion on two fronts at once. Implemented by the Government, the municipalities and UNDP, the Programme offers opportunities for unemployed people to gain valuable skills while at the same time providing badly needed social services for the most socially excluded groups in the country.
Over 10,000 people have already felt the benefits from the services provided through this programme, with each municipality launching schemes of part-time work experience in areas such as care for the elderly, services for people with disabilities and early childhood development.