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The lessons a mentor learns Part 3

One objective of REYN is to increase diversity in the workforce. In a series of blogs, Flóra Bacsó of Partners Hungary Foundation, is sharing about her work to coach five Romani women to become kindergarten assistants. 

In her previous blog, Flóra began to share the story of her mentee Ilona who reached out to her after moving to a new flat and experiencing some difficult family situations. In this blog, Flóra details how she helped Ilona work through the situation, beginning with Flóra’s response to a panicked phone call from Ilona.

I felt that her trust in me is something to be used as a resource. We talked for a long time. I pointed out that she made a huge step forward by asking for help and that it’s not her fault that she felt overwhelmed and exhausted. I shared a personal story when I also needed external help and encouraged her to reach out to the psychologist working at the local social center. At the beginning of our conversation, she said that she was too ashamed to share her situation with anyone else. By the end, she agreed to inform her social worker and her superior at work. I helped her figure out how to tell them what was going on with her.

Making a Plan

The psychologist in the local social center offered her consultations free of charge and Ilona accepted. Her superior, upon learning about her situation, offered to put her on sick leave until she got better without any time limitations. Her social worker checked on her every day. I organised a support group meeting for all the experts involved with her: the social worker, the psychologist, the mentor in the other program and myself. My aim was to exchange information on who is providing what kind of support for Ilona, without breaching confidentiality, so that we all can work towards the same direction – providing effective support. For the second meeting, Ilona was invited as well so that she could voice her needs which helped us work not just for her but with her. Empowerment and partnership are key when working with deprived people: clients need to feel that they have control over their life and that they have the ability to overcome challenges. Luckily all the fellow professionals working with her agreed on this, so on our meetings we were really able to provide the support that Ilona needed. She did not feel ashamed anymore. Together, we devised an even more flexible plan.

After a few months of regularly attending sessions with her psychologist, she managed to tackle her panic attacks and go back to work. Together, she and her supervisor figured out working hours and a payment schedule that would work for her. She moved to another flat where she finally feels at home. She managed to get professional help regarding the conflict with her son.

Finding success by an alternative route

I am glad we managed to be flexible with our plans and so was Ilona.

“I am so grateful for this program and I really want to work with children on the long run. I am convinced that I can take my chance again when my smallest child gets a bit older. I am grateful for where I am now in my life. I am very thankful to you as my mentor who always had my back through the hard times, you always wanted to know how I was doing, you offered me acceptance and emotional support,” Ilona shared.

At the beginning of the programme, I thought that the programme would be successful if all the mentees found a job in a kindergarten. I would not have thought that success can have alternative faces. But, it was flexibility that helped me complete the important steps that we took together in this programme. It is a success that she feels home where she lives now. It is a success that she conquered her panic attacks. It is a success that she is able to reach out for regular professional support and receive it. It is success that she was able to agree on a workload that is more manageable.

I am grateful for the professional conversations that I had during supervision that helped me with flexibility. I can appreciate that I might not see the results that were originally set out by the programme because the positive experience of building a solid and trusting relationship with my mentee had an important impact on her life.

Being heard and seen and accepted can give hope and momentum to initiate changes in our lives, no matter where we start.

By Flóra Bacsó, Trainer and Mentor at Partners Hungary Foundation.

Burning out of early childhood professionals, can we stop it?

A worrying trend in Hungary as early childhood professions remain unfilled due to low salaries and high levels of stress. Call centers pay twice as much, a professional said.

By Zsuzsa Laszlo, REYN Hungary Project Manager at Partners Hungary Foundation.

Budapest – A roundtable on current trends in the professional development of early childhood educators turned into a heated debate on the status of the early childhood profession.

The event organized by REYN Hungary, gathered experts coming from the higher education sector, early childhood NGOs, researchers and practitioners.

The attendees added to the agenda points something that everyone in the room felt highly important: the early childhood education and care (ECEC) profession has become unhealthy and non remunerative.

ECEC workers leave their jobs to change profession, for example a preschool teacher went to work in a call center for a salary twice as high, she said.

Early childhood jobs remain vacant

There are approximately 5000 health visitors in Hungary that due to low salary and administrative burden looked for work in other fields. Regions with a high Roma population are facing the biggest shortage of professionals. In Nógrád county nearly one third of the jobs (27 percent) are vacant (abcug.hu).

The same is valid for other positions such as pediatricians, preschool teacher and social worker. These are non-attractive professions for the newcomers, due to low prestige and salary. According to data from the National Health Insurance Fund (NEAK), over 60,000 children nationwide lack pediatric services.

Burn out

At the event, participants from the audience talked about their professional and personal situation: low paid salaries, no professional support, no supervision and extreme workload, fatigue them or lead them to burn out.

Prevention

A researcher shared her research results on what would help to prevent burn out of ECEC professionals. The keyword is prevention: professional supervision, coaching, sabbatical years and study visits are all activities that professionals should be granted. The debate went on on how ECEC professionals could raise their voice in order to advocate for their needs. Participants agreed that REYN (Romani Early Years Network) should be a platform that could support them in this.

The REYN Hungary event held on November 27th, 2019.

A positive story

To close on a positive note one teacher shared an example of inter-agency work that made her proud. She asked the major of her city to read his favorite fairy tales to the children of her school. Following the success of the initiative, she asked the major to pass this task to a colleague of his at the municipality. The next month the notary of the municipality read his favorite fairy tales. Then he passed the task along to another colleague etc.

With this very charming practice the school and the municipality staff started to bond and work together in more projects.

Notwithstanding the success of this and other initiatives, systemic interventions are urgent to address endemic problems in the early childhood sector in Hungary.

Read more about REYN Hungary.

The lessons a trainer learns – Part 1

What kind of support do we need to provide to deprived women who want to become professionals in early childhood? Our REYN Hungary program aims at training five Romani women to find a job as kindergarten assistants. This post talks about the lessons I have learned as their trainer. I am Flora Bacso, Trainer and Mentor at Partners Hungary Foundation.

What challenges do you think you will encounter if you fight for Romani women’s emancipation? Lack of programs and funds? Too few training opportunities? A discouraging job market? Biases towards Roma? You could probably go on with the list.

What can we do about the challenges?

I have been mentoring five Romani women for a year now.  They trained to become kindergarten assistants, read more about this in my previous post.

My role as a mentor is to motivate the mentees during and after their training. More importantly, I help them with any kind of issue they encounter when trying to enter the early childhood care profession.

It is extremely hard to bring a twist in the lives of people who are disadvantaged. As a mentor, you can get discouraged a times.

Consider this: Romani families expect the women to be in charge of the houses and to take care of the children. This puts already a heavy burden on them and it is something they can hardly change.

In addition, deprivation affects them on many levels: financially, spatially, they fear the unknown, and resent over previous failure.

In such a situation it is key to acknowledge and celebrate success however small that may be. Small success can be hard to see at first as progress is seldom linear. Progress is rather made of setbacks and advancements; this can be fatiguing mentally.

Lessons Learned

The deeper I got into the program, the more support I needed as a professional. Whoever works with people surely have found themselves asking questions about the work they have been doing.

Unique situations demand self-reflection and unique solutions. Am I doing it right? Is this enough progress? Do I see all the options? Besides discussing such questions with my Roma and non-Roma colleagues which proved to be a great resource, I also started to attend supervision training sessions which taught me a great deal about valuing small successes and progress.

Eva Csutka, my supervisor, who is a chief social worker working at a temporary home for deprived families in Budapest sums it up:

 “When we work with people who live in deprivation, we always have to tailor the goals to their circumstances and possibilities. It is not realistic to set goals which are not flexible. The most we can do is to build a solid personal connection and being very clear about our own boundaries and competence. … Sometimes as mentors, we don’t even see the effect we had on the people we have worked with for a long time. Maybe we are the first in offering professional support: without paternalizing them, minimizing their problems or resenting them for being slow to change. But this is how we sow the seeds that might help them build momentum for small changes: being empathic and non-judgemental, empowering them to make decisions that fit their lives.”

In the course of the following weeks, I will look at the unique challenges we faced with each of the mentees of the Romani Early Years Hungary program. I will show concrete examples of what has made a difference and also what advises I have given to them. The more we learn from such field experiences, the better support we can give to Romani women. At Partners Hungary Foundation, our aim is to build a fairer society, step by step.

By Flóra Bacsó, Trainer and Mentor at Partners Hungary Foundation.

Empowering Romani Women in Hungary – Part 1.

One of the REYN objectives is to increase diversity in the workforce. In this blog, Flóra Bacsó of Partners Hungary Foundation reports on how she coached five Romani women to become kindergarten assistants in six months. This is the first of a series of eight blog posts that Flóra will publish on this matter.

Professionals working in early childhood services have been voicing for a long time that having more Romani colleagues would support Romani children’s inclusion. The reason is that for children it is easier to relate to people that have the same cultural background.

Where this has happened, professionals report very positive experiences. For example, in a primary school in the town of Nyírbátor, where they have an intercultural mediator, more and more Roma parents have started to attend parents’ meetings. 

In Hungary, REYN provides free training to its members. The network is made mostly of professionals who work with young children in education and care.

It’s a “win win”

For Romani women it is often difficult to get qualifications and jobs. Therefore, lately REYN Hungary has organized a cycle of training sessions to include Romani women in the early childhood profession. Such training offers to Romani women a chance to professionalize and to take their life into their own hands. 

Five Romani women have acquired the qualification of Assistant Caregiver in the past six months. They have demonstrated strong dedication and resilience: along with their full-time job, they have attended weekend training sessions, they have performed 80-hour of kindergarten practice and have passed their exams with very good results. The program has been provided by Partners Hungary Foundation, REYN host in the country. Since October 2018, Partners Hungary has also provided the participants with mentoring in completing the exams and finding a job. Stay tuned to learn more …

By Flóra Bacsó, Partners Hungary Foundation.

“I believe that the challenges we face are opportunities to grow, given that we have a working method to deal with these challenges. Originally a teacher, I am now a mediator, restorative facilitator, trainer and project manager at Partners Hungary. I am fascinated by the synergy of the methods I can use to overcome difficult situations in human relationships, all of which aim towards enhancing cooperation and maximizing positive human interaction. As a mentor of five wonderful Romani women in REYN, I learned to appreciate the smallest successes and I am honoured to walk along these wonderful people.”

REYN Hungary: training for early childhood professionals helps prevent burnout

- News

Early childhood professionals mention heavy workload and low recognition of their role among the main causes of stress. The REYN National Network in Hungary helps the early childhood workforce strengthen their capacity and advocates for their well-being.

REYN Hungary builds the capacity of early childhood professionals who work with Roma in the country. One of their workshops, titled “Burnout prevention for professionals working with Roma children”, recently tripled the amount of applications and had great reviews by participants. The training was delivered to health visitors, child protection workers, kindergarten teachers and principals.

“I felt like I needed this training because, as an health visitor, I wanted to keep delivering despite the difficult circumstances. I did not have the chance to attend such a training for many years”, says Csilla Kuráthné Ábel, a participant.

People working in early childhood settings have an important role in the children’s development and it is therefore key to support their well-being.

Alarmingly, the early childhood workforce is at higher risk of stress if compared it with other professionals. As indicated by the Early Childhood Workforce Initiative, “61 percent of educators reported that their work is “always” or “often” stressful”. Among the causes they mention there are: “high-stakes job demands, limited resources and professional autonomy, and negative school climate”.

Hungary is not an exception. The participants reported high bureaucratic burden, heavy workload and low pay. “There is a significant number of unfilled vacancies and young people are not motivated to choose this career”, Csilla declares. “More prevention is needed but this is not happening due to the lack of financial resources and lack of care for staff.”

REYN Hungary strives to create professional learning communities to facilitate exchange, raise awareness and help prevent burnout.

“As REYN National Network in Hungary, we know that only a happy teacher can make children happy” – says Zsuzsa Laszlo, REYN Coordinator – “for this reason we often organize training for early childhood professionals. We believe it is important to empower people who work with Romani children and families.”

Participants highly appreciated the training, “I was delighted to have the opportunity to join”, says Csilla. “I am thankful for this. Because dealing with small children takes a lot from professionals and such professional and human recharging opportunities are important”, says Baranyi Marcsi, another participant.

REYN Hungary offers different types of training all year long, many of which are for free or at discounted rates for the members. Learn more and join their network.