Jamaica and Moldova unite to support grandparents
This November, HelpAge in Moldova and its partner Second Breath hosted Julian Mckoy, from HelpAge in Jamaica and Venesse Morrison from the Jamaican organisation, Hope for Children Development Company.
At first glance, you might think that Moldova and Jamaica would not have a lot in common. But dig a little deeper and you find that these two countries are experiencing similar problems.
Indeed, the aim of the visit was for the organisations to exchange best practice and learning on how to deal with the impact of migration on multi-generational households, a challenge faced by both countries.
According to Labour Force Survey 2009, 25% of the economically active population of Moldova has migrated abroad in search of better employment opportunities to provide for their families. Equally, an estimated 60% of highly educated Jamaicans live abroad.
This explains why both Moldova and Jamaica are part of the Joint Migration and Development Initiative (JMDI) funded by the European Commission and administered by the UN Development Programme.
Supporting those left behind
In both countries, the common goal is to support those left behind, namely grandparents and grandchildren. The project does so by strengthening relationships between generations, as well as developing community engagement to enable older people to discuss their rights.
Our work consistently highlights the importance of older carers and the fact that they need support. In Moldova for example, in families where both parents have migrated, 91% of grandparents take on the main parenting role.
And, despite remittances coming from relatives working abroad, older people still rely on their pensions to feed and educate their grandchildren. We found that over 10% of those in poor multigenerational households are going to bed hungry.
Snow in Jamaica!
The trip included visits to various project activities, such as Older People‘s Groups in Balti and Satul Nou Cimislia, who lead the community support work with older carers and their families. Here, the guests were met with bread and salt - an old Moldovan tradition.
Visiting families affected by migration at local schools and community centres was a great experience for both the guests and project beneficiaries.
For some of the children, however, the most interesting thing was finding out why it never snows in Jamaica!
Theatre and sport
The social theatre in Lapusna, Hincesti was a touching event as the children performed from their favourite Moldovan fairy tales. The finale song about migration, calling parents back home to their children brought tears to the eyes of the audience and the guests.
No less interesting was a sport competition which is organised regularly in Orhei. Older people and children joined together to participate in several activities while Julian cheer-leaded the groups along.
"I have blood pressure problems, but I didn't want to let my granddaughter down by refusing to run," said one brave grandmother.
Commitment to the community
These activities are only possible thanks to the enormous amount of work that the 264 volunteers in 10 project sites around Moldova carry out in their communities. Both Julian and Venessa were impressed by the attitude and commitment of older volunteers to their work.
Due to these initiatives, we can already see that the goal of improving intergenerational communication and solidarity between older carers and children is starting to happen.
Shared problems, shared solutions
Moldova and Jamaica showed a lot of common problems and surprisingly, a lot of common solutions. Training on developing parenting skills and counselling sessions for grandparents organised in Jamaica will be taken on board in Moldova, whereas social theatre and grandparents' clubs are activities that Jamaica is considering.
Venesse concluded: "Moldova, though far from Jamaica will remain close to my heart and mind. The HelpAge Moldova staff were so warm and I was flabbergasted with the families and groups I interacted with and how happy they were to be involved in this wonderful initiative. I'm looking forward to our continued relationship with HelpAge in Moldova."