FSCI and Beginning of Life were delighted to publicly launch our joint Building Resilience in Vulnerable Communities (BRVC) programme on October 13th in Chișinău, Moldova. The guests included a number of NGOs, representing nearly 500 children’s day centres, along with BRVC project partners, The British Ambassador Steven Fisher, and FSCI Network partners from other Southeast European countries.
Five different speakers gave short addresses, including the British Ambassador, and Ruslan Stanga, CEO of the Institute for Rural Initiatives and Serghei Mihailov, Beginning of Life’s Executive Director and its President, Vladimir Ubeivolc. Below is the text from the short speech given by FSCI’s Chief Executive, Chris Mould.One of the features of vulnerable communities is that children in such communities are more likely to have to face difficult, distressing, damaging life events. Adverse childhood experiences is the term used by people who research these things and by social workers and others who try to deal with the consequences. When we speak of adverse childhood experiences we are speaking of abuse, neglect and household challenges such as poverty, mental health problems, substance abuse by a family member, violence.
These are not marginal issues affecting a few people here and there and not having much impact on wider society as a whole. For example, adverse childhood experiences are the single largest public health problem in the USA. The costs of adverse childhood experiences to American society are greater than smoking or obesity. They lie behind much mental illness, family breakdown, drug and alcohol abuse, poor achievement in school, low productivity in the workplace, crime and consequent incarceration in prison and some physical disease like diabetes and heart disease.
Over the past thirty years sociologists, neurobiologists, physicians, psychologists and psychiatrists have proved the truth of this. Economists have quantified the costs. And fortunately the same science has made much progress in identifying the essential strategies and tools that will need to be adopted to reverse the trend. Science has also made huge progress in understanding and explaining why at the level of the individual – exposing what is actually going on in their brains, or often what’s not going on that should be – and showing how it comes to be, nonetheless, that improvement, turnaround in fact, really is possible.
When we discuss these things, we are speaking of the human condition. What is true in America, or in Germany or the UK will be true wherever humans seek to flourish, including of course Moldova.
Interestingly, right at the heart of what we are all learning both as researchers and practitioners is the importance of resilience – resilience at the personal level and at the level of communities and at the level of whole societies.
Which brings me on to our collaboration and the project that we are launching here today.
In some way or another FSCI with its core team in Bulgaria, Beginning of Life here in Moldova and FSCI’s other partners across Southeast Europe are all working to deal with issues related to adverse childhood experiences and to help vulnerable individuals, families and communities build resilience.
Today is a very big day for us. We have been talking for several years about what might happen if we were able to combine the various projects we have expertise in – early years development, families, parenting, teenage independence and critical thinking, care leavers transitioning to adulthood: to combine these in some kind of multi-year, holistic, connected programme and to deploy it at scale across a society.
Thanks to the generosity of a number of philanthropic donors who have a special interest in Moldova, FSCI has been able to turn that idea into a reality.
We are at the start. Of course we are. But this is not just hot air and aspiration.
Over the past year Beginning of Life and FSCI have developed a range of practical materials and piloted training. We are now ready to work at larger scale, collaborating with and equipping fellow NGOs and working with educational and other institutions run by public authorities across Moldova.
With migration being the challenging and enduring problem that it is in Moldova, adverse childhood experiences are an issue that cannot be ignored. Our Building Resilient Communities project offers a way of engaging with it.
Central to building resilience is increasing access to alternative life options because this changes the way individuals and families discount risk. By offering an alternative model of resilient thinking and acting in response to the effects of poverty and exploitation and by working alongside communities we generate ability to think such alternatives possible. “It doesn’t have to be like this. It doesn’t have to end like that.”
To finish let me give you some insight into our wider vision. The problems Moldova faces are challenges faced by other nations in Southeast Europe. What if we could share learning from Moldova in other countries? What if through the BRVC project Moldova could act as a development laboratory for the region?
One thing FSCI has learnt since it first extended outside Bulgaria seven years ago, is the power of networks to accelerate learning and impact. This is true both inside a country and internationally. Shared learning; shared endeavour; shared resourcing where possible, accelerates the progress towards good outcomes.
You can find out more about Building Resilience in Vulnerable Communities at our new programme website: www.brvc.org.