Rebecca Shindelar - General Care Projects in Romania
I was riding along with my Project’s Abroad driver, through the winding roads, having arrived in the country of Romania just an hour or so ago, and gawking at the beautiful terrain. My driver was speaking to me about the country and the history of its past. He debriefed me on what to expect with my new house-mother, Rodica, and told me of how sweet and welcoming this dear lady is.
I did not know what to expect with this wonderful opportunity to live in a home stay for the next month, learning a language and culture that I had just briefly encountered through the internet and books. I was thrilled for the challenging opportunity to experience personal growth and enhancement of my understanding of a new culture, but apprehensive of the different circumstances by which I was surrounded.
Volunteering in Romania
The next morning, I met Georgiana, who represented Projects Abroad as my guide and mentor throughout my stay. She spoke English well, and was able to introduce me to the beautiful city of Brasov, and the friendly people who lived there.
Georgiana was fabulous with making sure that I felt completely at home in every aspect. She helped me to obtain a bus pass with which I could travel around the country, introduced me to the local shops and restaurants. She even travelled with me to my Care placement on the second day, introducing me to the children at the state-run orphanage, and my fellow volunteer.
When I grew sick from a terrible cold, during my placement, it was Georgiana who took me to the nearby pharmacy to purchase some medicine. She translated and negotiated with the clerk to locate me the best medications and figure out where I could purchase further tissues and medicine, if I required them.
She and the other office workers always had my best health and safety at heart, and communicated well with me. They helped me to obtain a mobile phone and a minute plan to connect with them and the other volunteers. From the moment that I was connected with the individuals working with Projects Abroad, I felt welcomed and cared for, and was so thankful for their overflowing compassion for others and consideration of all of my needs!
My Care placement
Despite the comforting and welcoming nature of the staff, I had a very challenging time in Brasov working in my placement. The 38 children that I worked with grew so near and dear to my heart that it was torturous leaving them and being allowed only to take my fond memories of them, with me.
I worked at an orphanage, with children who had physical and mental disabilities. It was a personal journey of development for me, as I have not had much experience with children with special needs, and was not familiar with the history of the systems in place for child welfare in Romania.
This was an excellent opportunity to work with the staff of the orphanage to understand the methods of childcare that they had implemented. Although many of the workers at the orphanage did not speak English, there was usually one or two personnel on staff who spoke English well enough to assist me with the daily care needs of the children.
I primarily focused upon playing with the children and entertaining them. One of my favourite goals of each day was to connect specifically with each child’s own unique personality, to make them laugh and enjoy themselves. I charted their developmental progress, as well as areas of improvement that future volunteers could work on. This aspect of my duties as a volunteer was not easy for me, but it was rewarding and fulfilling.
I had another volunteer with me at the orphanage for only about half of the time that I was in Brasov, I was able to have equal experience with gathering the kids together in larger groups to go outside or to the playroom, as well as individual time playing with the children.
My friend and I would look for items for the children from the collection at the Projects Abroad office, as well as on our travels around the city and the country. I found such joy in being able to connect and work with the children, knowing that they would not be able to communicate their thankfulness in words, but rather in the smiles and laughter that they blessed me with each day.
Volunteers in Romania
In my volunteering, I was also able to connect with other like-minded individuals who had hearts to serve. During our stay, a group of about six of us connected very well and went out to the local cafes and restaurants in the area very often.
It was a wonderful experience for us to enjoy the culture of Romania, while travelling around the nearby countryside together. We explored the city of Brasov through shopping, participating in local festivals and celebrations, as well as sampling the foods of the Romanian culture.
Being able to share my experience abroad with roommates and other friends, added an entirely different element to my experience and offered me the ability to share my excitement, struggles, and learning with others going through similar situations.
Travelling to Brasov was my first experience outside of the country, and although I had arrived with anxiety and anticipation of what was to come, I was not disappointed with the many ways in which I grew through my journey. Projects Abroad offered the services and assistance to allow me to feel comfortable and supported while I discovered a plethora of findings about myself and the world around me.
The friends I met along the way all taught me about the importance of stretching yourself and making the most of each and every moment that you are blessed with when you travel abroad, and in life in general.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.