Phil DeVol, author of Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’-By-World, had the opportunity to train social service providers via Zoom in Slovakia as facilitators of Getting Ahead

Below is an edited Facebook posting from the nonprofit Cesta Von (in English, “the way out”) about their Getting Ahead graduation. 

Slovakian Getting Ahead participant singing

Click on the image to hear the singing of a Getting Ahead graduate in Slovakia.

“I didn’t even realize how valuable and powerful it was for them when I told them the news that they were selected,” said Marek, who coordinates Getting Ahead in the community in Zvolen. “One woman wanted to give me a hug, and another almost cried tears of joy while smiling from ear to ear and saying that this news made her day. Another man jumped up, took off his cap, and was visibly moved. Others looked as if they had been selected in a casting process.”

When Marek was discussing all these positive reactions with his wife, they acknowledged that people can get used to failure. In generational poverty, people commonly encounter rejection. Rarely do they succeed, and rarely does anyone want to listen to them.

This is how the beginning of the Getting Ahead program looked when the first group began to form. It was led by two facilitators, who met once per week. They explored topics such as the causes of poverty, the differences between the social classes, the hidden rules of social classes, and stages of personal change. They mapped community resources and explored their own resources and how to leverage them.

In the program, participants were viewed as experts who know best. They were not listeners but teachers, as experts on their situation and in trying to name solutions. Forming this group was hard. Final formation of the group was formed after the sixth meeting.

Five participants finished the program, despite the obstacles. In the group of four women and one man, all experienced positive change in their lives.

The culmination was the awarding of certificates. Everyone from the group invited their family members. Others from the community in attendance included the head of the municipal office, a representative from the office of the commissioner for Roma communities, and representatives from Cesta Von.

Graduate Anička Oláhová gave a speech for the group. She surprised participants by singing a song, which she composed for the occasion. The translated lyrics are:

We are seeking a world in which life is quite perfect

We are seeking a direction in which we can sail with ease

We are seeking a ship that floats with humility; just a little bit is enough to remain human

If you’re waiting for a person to help you get up off the ground, don’t forget, you can be dropped off the ship

With a pirate’s look I always take a swim

I like people; that’s why I’m choosing this direction

Come with me; we can meet new people and show them how to love

I want to stand by them

Come with me; we can meet new people and show them how to love

I know how to stand by them

Organizers were inspired by a similar American program implemented by aha! Process. Organizers tested the program and adapted it to their situation. After the experience gained from the pilot project, organizers plan to start another group to help people in the Roma community in Slovakia.