At the end of September we happily and thankfully celebrated the opening of the church kindergarten 'Klíček' at the rectory in Rumburk. Seven months of construction work finally came to an end. But it was preceded by countless hours in which we, with helpers (not only from the parish), painted, assembled, planted and spread soil and gravel …
But actually we have to look further back: already in the spring of 2012 a part of our rectory had been converted into a family center - this was another important step, for our small parish, towards opening up and being able to reach out to people beyond the circle of our parish. Among other efforts, both children from the Roma community and from the majority population came over to the family center for a preschool group during a 10 month period. This experience demonstrated how difficult it is to be dependent on short-term funding for educational work with children, and was the decisive impulse for us in creating a registered kindergarten that is entitled to regular state funding.
None of us had guessed beforehand, however, how many hurdles had to be overcome. Some offices, authorities and suppliers have not made it easy for us. It gave us the feeling that Church or non-state kindergartens are still a major exception in this country.
The conversion was primarily funded through donations. The Protestant Church of Saxony, Swiss Interchurch Aid, and many congregations and individual donors who supported us with actions and collections, deserve our heartfelt thanks.
4 of the 24 places we have in total shall give priority to children who are, because of their ethnicity or the social status of their family, disadvantaged. Our parish has set itself the task of looking for these children to help provide financial support to cover the costs for food, as well as to cover part of the parental contribution. We think, however, that it is important for the cooperation and the encouragement of self-responsibility that socially disadvantaged families pay a certain proportion themselves. In recent weeks it has become evident that this is quite a hurdle. A major hurdle is the familiarity with social programs, which are, although limited and irregular, free. So far only two places could be filled by Roma children. Cooperation with social organizations, special afternoon programs and events are still needed to create long term trust.
In addition to this social focus we are also aiming to be, as a parish, a partner to the kindergarten when it comes to joint activities, projects and consultations and to bring Christian values to the cooperation of educators, parents and children.
With the opening of the kindergarten, therefore, begins an exciting new stage. Even after the end of the construction work a lot remains to be done. However, not only lifeless walls have been built in recent months. Many have contributed work and effort, money, time and ideas. Already, the construction of the kindergarten has brought people together and connected them. That is a foundation we can build on in courage.
Rev. Constance Šimonovská, Pastor in Rumburk