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THE PHILLIP HOUSE DAY CENTER

Neighborhood Profile

Children in the Ferentari Extension district live at or below the poverty line, very often in substandard conditions. Broken families are the norm, as rates of child abandonment are high. Rates of abuse and neglect are equally high. Members of the extended family tend to live together, with up to eight people in one room. Children living in these cramped and often unsanitary conditions face an increased risk of health problems, as has been documented by the Philip House staff. Most of the apartments do not have running water or heat, which makes the conditions even more miserable during the winter. Further, the majority of the children in this neighborhood do not receive adequate nutrition; one meal a day, if that, is often all the children eat.

The neighborhood itself is dangerous, dirty, and degraded. Many drug dealers and prostitutes live here, as do a number of thieves and beggars. Trash piles up in the street and behind the buildings, and packs of dogs run freely in front of the apartments.

The prevailing attitude towards education is negative. The question "why waste time learning if you can steal and make money now?" is an unspoken assumption among many neighborhood residents. The parents themselves usually lack education and are in no way equipped to help their children succeed in school.

The neighborhood is also home to a high percentage of Roma (formerly "Gypsy"). The rate of poverty among Roma in Romania remains disproportionately high, due to various historical factors. Throughout their history and no less in Romania, Roma have been marginalized and discriminated against by the majority, and stereotypes of the "dirty thief" remain prevalent. Integration of the Roma into Romanian society can only be achieved with a concerted effort to counteract a long history of marginalization. (For additional background on Roma, see www.rroma.ro).

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What we offer

It is precisely within this neighborhood that Ovidiu and Viorica chose to locate the Phillip House Day Center, in order to provide critically needed resources to the children and their families. Each day the children come to the Day Center before or after school and spend several hours working on homework, eating a meal, and playing with the other children. The Day Center offers a safe and nurturing environment where the children can receive the help and love that they need. Further, the staff strives to develop relationships not only with the children but also with their families, which extends the influence of the Day Center into the larger community as well.

In addition, we believe that to best assist the children and their families, we must work to strengthen the network of relationships within the community. To this end, we also work to develop and further existing partnerships and collaborations between the Phillip House and the children and their families, the community, local schools, and governmental bodies (City Hall, School Inspectorate, Department for Child Protection).

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Day Center Daily Activities

  • Free daily hot meal and nutritive supplements
  • Assistance with homework from qualified teachers
  • Tutoring in specific subjects to improve school results
  • Entertainment and/or cultural activities meant to stimulate creativity, critical thinking and problem solving, to motivate participation in competitions with other children, and to instill a sense of belonging to the community (Arts and crafts; literature; civic education; physical education; choir; supervised outdoor games in a safe enclosed environment)
  • Additional recreational activities include field trips and summer camps

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Social Assistance

Taking into account the poverty of the assisted children and their families, we have developed a variety of services designed to meet their needs.

For the children:

  • Provide every child with free school supplies (notebooks, pens, etc.), art supplies, shoes and clothing
  • Create and update personal records for each child, which include family background, school record, medical record, and a personal/social needs assessment
  • Implement an appropriate intervention strategy based on individual needs

For the families:

  • Distribute emergency support for extremely impoverished families, consisting of food, clothing and other necessary supplies
  • Make regular field visits to the assisted families to monitor their situation
  • Mediate meetings between the child and members of his/her family, with a focus on family integration and/or reintegration
  • Offer judicial assistance to the parents, advising them how to obtain identity cards and how to meet the requirements for health insurance
  • Give up-to-date information about labor legislation and provide professional guidance

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Results

The Phillip House Day Center consistently offers effective community-driven services. Each child we assist has made encouraging progress since coming to the Phillip House Day Center. Children who were formerly withdrawn and socially isolated now participate in all the available activities and have integrated well with the other children. Those who were on the verge of dropping out of school now attend regularly and their grades are steadily improving.

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(c) Phillip House Foundation, 06.2003
design by Andrei C. Ionescu