Civic education is obligatory in Moldova’s schools, but it is not participative, leading to a limited impact. This is why civic education should offer children the possibility to be directly involved in the resolution of real community problems. With this in mind, the young kids of Center,,VIS” began a program called Public Achievement (PA), and the principal goal is to teach children how to become responsible citizens and to be active in community life. Bencheci Natalia, a psychologist, and Keith Johnson, a Peace Corps volunteer, mediate these meetings, which usually take place on Friday.
Throughout these meetings we organized numerous activities: “What Is PA?”; basic concepts of PA such as democracy, public work, citizenship, responsibility, power, etc.; “Me and My Community”; “My Village”; and “My Contribution”; among others. These activities offered the children the opportunity to express their own opinions, to collaborate and cooperate within a group, and to better understand the problems and community in which they live. Most importantly, the activities demonstrated the importance of being conscious of everyone’s contribution in solving our community’s problems.
Our activities began with icebreakers and team-building activities. This included establishing rules for the group, as well as punishments for those who break the rules. Don’t worry, these “punishments” were not severe. They included telling a story or singing a song.
After this, we delved into the problems of the community, which ranged from littering, to bad roads, to substance abuse, to the problems of the elderly. As we discussed these, we placed an emphasis on issues that the children could realistically solve. The children themselves began to rule out unachievable ideas and decided to help the elderly. Liza, who is 13 years old, said:
“Today, in this meeting I learned things that I certainly didn’t know. Together with my colleagues from Center “VIS,” I discovered the problems of our community. I personally found out about the community’s problems. Every one of us proposed different opinions, which helped us discover a problem which every one of us can resolve.”
And of course, we kept it fun with games like “Train.” In this game, a line of children, all with their eyes closed with the exception the conductor in the back, were guided around obstacles and through different rooms, all without talking. Activities like these really helped build trust. Another great game was “House Construction,” where each child was given a strip of paper with a clue to a problem. Then, only through talking, and forbidden to show each other what was written on their paper, the kids had to figure out the problem they were presented with. With 15 children, it was hard for the group to communicate at first, but leaders emerged and then, success!
We then went to work on logos. The idea here was to get the kids thinking about the essence of their groups. They picked a title, slogan, and drew their logos. The kids picked titles like “Optimists” and “Heat” with logos of a sun and cleaning supplies. (This group wanted to clean the community.)
Currently, the kids are visiting the houses of elderly people who live by themselves, and they are discovering the best ways to help them. One method that kids identified was to give the elderly food. They are now exploring ways to obtain and deliver the food.
It has been incredible to observe the change in the children. At the beginning of PA, when asked to define citizenship, the kids decided that it was “the involvement of public institutions in the problems of society.” Now the children involve themselves!
Peace Corps volunteer