​​Transformational results of Holis: A personal testimony

Zuzana Sojková

April 11, 2022

I took part in Holis online program as an external expert – it had profound effect on my work and organisation. Here’s the story.

This year’s topic was Early Childhood Development System in Visegrad Region. I was invited in as an external expert to talk about our system, current trends, and situation in the Banská Bystrica region (located in the central/southern part of Slovak republic). 

I started my NGO „Platforma Naše školstvo“ freshly that year. Original idea was to work with elemantary schools exactly in the Banská Bystrica region, and focus purely on this systemic level. But Holis opened my eyes.

Every year, thousands of children, who should have received early development systemic care (but have not), enter the school system. They come to school and are practically immediately behind their classmates – not because they are slower or are not trying hard enough : they just need better care and support to close the gap that had been there from the very beginning. So far, the idea of our NGO was that we need to invest into these kids, and help them close the gap during their school education. But that was way too optimistic and unreal to achieve.

What I realized during Holis workshops was this: For our school level to work properly, we need to have functioning early education level. There is no other way – and the longer we deny this, the bigger our problems will get. No matter how much time, effort, energy or funds we invest into reforming our schools, without building strong foundation of early education systems, they will never meet the challenge. Early education and school education need to be complementary – only then we can achieve the bright future of every single child. 

This changed the whole narrative of my work and my organization. It was suddently not only about elementary schools – it was about the whole complex system. It was definitely my very own AHA moment. 

One question was stuck in my mind my whole Holis time: What can I do to further this cause? How can I contribute to solving this problem?

And that is where our next steps were born. Shortly after my last online call at Holis I got together with other people in Slovakia who are experienced in the early development topic. It was like the movies – I talked a lot about my findings and inspiration and they actually listened and bounced ideas with me. And I am pleased to say that we received one of the greatest honors of them all. We got an actual project partner – NGO Detstvo Deťom, to my best knowledge the oldest professional early development organization focused on Roma children in Slovakia. 

We found a funding call perfect to apply for, and we submitted our project shortly after, in February (it was actually on Valentine’s day, is that not lovely?). The whole point is to integrate early education system fully into current system - linking pediatricians directly with early education terrain workers.

And this is what means so much to me. I was very briefly part of Holis, but I completely adore and admire its methodology and culture. It was beyond inspiring and it lead me to very impactful results. I would probably never get there independently without this project.

Thank you Holis so much for this whole experience. It once again underlines that when a group of active citizens who care about problems get together and collaborate, something great almost always follows.