Normal view
COVID-19 RESPONSE

Employment of Community Assistants To enhance the impact of a complex educational programme

The interlinked problems of segregation, a malfunctioning education system, unemployment and poverty create a vicious circle for the marginalised community of Csobánka that prevents social mobility and leads to generations of disadvantage. Csodaműhely Association aimed to tackle this problem by running a Complex Programme for Equal Opportunities targeting infants, children, teenagers, adults and professionals alike.

The Complex Programme for Equal Opportunities currently has the following main pillars:

  • Toy Play Hub – creating an inclusive centre where Roma and non-Roma parents and their children (0-10 years) can play, develop and forge friendships across different social status.
  • Afterschool Programme – developing competences of school-aged children via individual tutoring, mentoring and community events.
  • Adult Education Programme – providing an opportunity for adults to finish their primary education, attain vocational certificates and advance their employment in the primary labour market.
  • Trainings and Meetings for Local Professionals – creating a professional network andproviding skills development opportunities for stakeholders such as careworkers, teachers, kindergarten and nursery staff.

The work of the Association has enjoyed wide-spread support throughout the community, as they celebrate their 8th year of establishment. However, some programme elements are less embedded in the local community due to their more recent introduction. In addition, it is common that information about programmes does not reach certain families. In some cases, the organisation has also faced organisational challenges due to capacity shortages.

To help address these challenges, the Foundation supported the Community Assistance Pilot Programme with funding for the employment of three local assistants - initially for one year (October 2019 – October 2020). The pilot tested whether the employment of community assistants could lead to a smoother operation and greater impact by ensuring: information reached all families, the needs of the community and subsequent feedback as gathered more efficiently by the Association, community members better understood the opportunities available, as well as being motivated and supported to take full advantage of the programmes. The pilot programme also aimed to provide capacity building and development opportunities for the community assistants whose professional trajectory could take a new turn, after gaining valuable experience in the charity sector.

The initial months of implementation proved that the role of local community assistants is highly needed and they provided extremely helpful insights, contributing to the success of the programmes. During the COVID-19 lockdown, the work of community assistants became even more essential. Since the other employees of the Association could only reach the community online, all personal communication with the families, along with the distribution of donations was done through the local assistants.

Despite the initial success, due to the novelty of the positions within both the Association and the community, extra support was needed to support the community assistants, especially at the start of the programme. Therefore, the Foundation awarded additional funds towards professional mentoring of the local community assistants. Through the provision of mentoring by Partners Hungary Foundation, the capacity, self- confidence and skills development of the local assistants was enhanced. In addition, constructive feedback was provided to the entire organisation making the cooperation of the members smoother. All in all, through the mentoring, the contribution of local community assistants has become even more effective.

Having witnessed the outstanding results of the pilot programme, the Foundation has committed to support the Community Assistance programme for the next three years. During this period, Wonderworkshop Association will work towards increasing its own funding towards the programme so that its sustainability can be ensured after the Foundation’s grant comes to an end.