Break Poverty Cycle of Roma Children in Romania

by Care2Travel
Break Poverty Cycle of Roma Children in Romania

Dear Donors, 

For this report we asked teaching volunteer, Sandra, to give us a testimonial about her time at the Xantus Janos school and the after schools where she worked. She kindly agreed and we thank her for her kind words. 

September 30, 2021

I am completing my  experience here in Romania as a volunteer from USA. I am leaving knowing that the work Care 2 Travel is doing is making a profound difference in the lives of the children they are so devoted to serving. The reception by Administrators and teachers at the work sites speaks to the community support the organization has garnered. 
When arriving at the different schools and after school programs the children were eager to play and interact and practice English. They consciously chose to practice English and participate in the learning activities we brought. 
Their eyes lit up and you could see sparks of curiosity and motivation, even when I had no knowledge of Hungarian. 
The Care 2 Travel team build experiences that foster global friendships and purpose. The work being done is phenomenal and transformational for the students, community, and volunteers. 
I highly recommend this program to others and walk away knowing that I made a difference and am better as a person for having had the opportunity to experience it.
Sandra Slavin
Retired healthcare Administrator
ESL teacher
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As the Covid 19 restrictions allowed it we were back working in the after schools in the surrounding villages, where the majority of the children are ethnic Roma with a very difficult disadvantaged background. With the help of our long term volunteers, Bori from Hungary, Boris and Teun from the Netherlands, and Maily from Luxembourg, we visit these kids every week to learn English and play with them. These visits in Kápolnás, Csatószeg and Domokos are the highlight of our weeks and looking at the children's faces when we arrive, we can see that they also enjoy these "English days" as they call it. 

Due to the pandemic the authorities prolonged the Easter vacation to four weeks, so we were happy to organise two consecutive camps for the children of Domokos. We were teaching English in a fun way, enhancing their social and life skills. The volunteers planned and facilitated all the activities of the camps under our coordination. 

With the younger children of the first week we did more drawing and crafting activites. Unfortunately the weather was very bad on the second week, so most of the activities were held indoors. On the first week The angry green snakes won, second week The yellow angry tigers took the first place. Looks like being angry makes you a winner... We gave away gifts to all participants, they could choose between small notebooks and little animal figured blackboards. They enjoyed their presents and left with fun memories and a sense of many little achievements.

“I enjoyed the camp really much, I liked all of the games because I like the English language and I’ve learned more interesting things here than in school.” This is one of the many positive feedback that the children, who participated in the camps, provided. The volunteers put great effort into coming up with enjoyable activities while also keeping in mind to teach them new English words.

Both camps were very successful and we even set up a small work-group with the kids and their relatives to renovate the playground and plant new flowers and vegetables. 

We are very grateful for our donors who made it possible to cover our expenses so we were able to facilitate our camps, and contribute to the playground renovation.

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Step by step all starts to get back on track, but it was a windy road to get to it. In October we faced another lockdown in Romania, where schools closed totally and the usual school teaching was done online. During these weeks the activities of all organizations where children could physically meet and learn were seized. Fortunately it didn't last long and we could start working on our After School Program. Soon after the school closure the number of infections started to stagnate and the government was more open to allow small gatherings; this made it possible for us to work with a smaller number of kids and volunteers and organize After School Club activities. 4 foreing volunteers were able to work with 6 to 10 kids during weekdays in the surrounding villages of our town. These activities involved pupils between 6 and 15 years old, most of them from the local Roma communities. The activities involved helping the kids to do their English homework, playing games that enhance their English vocabulary and verbal skills and also programs that influenced their social skills.

Special activities included short camp-like days of longer competitive team games during the bank holidays when kids had no school; focusing on festive handcraft sessions during Halloween, Saint Nicholas day and Christmas; creating and sharing presents; Snowman building and competitive snowball fights on snowy days and translating, teaching, rehearsing of Christmas carols. 

For the activities, volunteers were transported by the Care2Travel car into villages in the 30 km radius of Miercurea Ciuc. Our programs from all villages involved altogether 35 kids and the activities of volunteers were always supervised by one of our staff members.

It was great to see how the kids became slowly more open and communicative after their constant meeting with our volunteers. The activities are very beneficial for these children not just on an English learning level but it also makes them understand that without being able to use the language they won't be able to communicate and no matter how poor their English is, it is still worth trying to use it because this is how learning happens.

With the approaching of the long awaited second semester, when kids can go back to school normally, we are expecting that we can expand our activities into more After School Clubs and by the government easing its restrictions we can include more kids too. We are extremely grateful to our donors who made it possible for us to organize such activities in these very hard times, when not just face to face teaching, but also social interaction for kids is crucial.

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After months and months of quarantine and restrictions, Care2Travel was able to organize 5 camps at the end of the summer vacation. Our very last camp and the highlight of the summer was our camp for the children in Csikszentdomokos village and the kids at the Szent Ferenc After School Club for Disadvantaged Children. In Hargita the majority of after school clubs are run by the Saint Franciscan Foundation and are located in small villages around the county. These clubs offer shelter and 1 hot meal for school kids from disadvantaged backgrounds after they finish school. There is usually 1 carer who prepares the food and helps the children with their homework and studies. Children are usually aged between 7-15 years old (1st to 8th grade). The children that attend this club are from disadvantaged backgrounds. Alcoholism is often the main problem as is a lack of education in the parents and also single-parent families with 1 parent often working abroad. The children can be mischievous but this is mainly because they do not receive much discipline and attention at home. Ultimately they are just like any child that when given attention and praise they thrive.

In this camp 4 international volunteers, Joy and Meggie from Germany, and Maude and Nell from Belgium worked together with 4 local volunteers to develop and facilitate exiting and fun activities for the children. We sincerely hope that we thought them more than just English.

We taught them teamwork by separating the big group of kids into smaller teams, then letting them choose a team name and making a group flag. We gave them responsibilities by letting them take the flag home and insuring they bring it back to the camp the next day.

Most days we started with a fun warm-up that ended with a fitness challenge. After that, we had an English writing quiz that had words that they learned from the previous day. The quizzes were scored in a way that was fair towards all kids, so spelling mistakes didn’t count, the word just had to be recognizable. We also taught them fair play by making sure each team had an equal chance of winning at the end of the week.

That being said we also taught them kindness by giving all the kids prizes at the end of the week. However, all we can really wish that we taught them is how to have fun and in doing so, they can learn so much more.

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Work in the office
Work in the office

At this time of the year, when the pandemic is about to retreat we are hoping that we'll be able to continue what we've started. For more than 3 months it was not allowed to go out from the house or to organize any meetings. We were using the possibilities given by video chats to keep the contact and continue our work, but it's really difficult to sustain the efficiency.

A the moment it looks like we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The govermnent of Romania is about to vote on the new legislation that makes possible for no more than 20 people to meet. This means that we can start organizing our camps for Roma children and hope that this number will raise soon. If not, we are still able to organize two smaller camps instead of a bigeer one.

There are still some issues though. In all our camps we provide foreign, English speaking volunteer for the children to interact as this will raise their interest in English language and will widen their social network along with many other benefits. We are facing the difficulty of recruiting foreign volunteers at the moment. As the 2 weeks of self-quarantaine of newly arrived foreigners is still applicable, it's really hard to host volunteers from other countries.

It is also difficult that we have to make compromises regarding the location with the school that provides us the space for the summer camp. It is really difficult for schools at the moment as they have to allign with the decisions of the government which is sometimes not very detailed and it might attract a fine for the facility if all requirements are not met. 

Also local volunteers are still a bit concerned about taking part of a larger gatherings considering the fact that as per the media, the virus haven't disapperared yet, only started to weaken a bit.

The lack of work and the cancelled funds we were promised are also making our life harder and if we won't be able to get out of this pandemic situation, we'll be struggling soon financially.

We'll continue the work anyhow and hope that we'll be able to succeed and recruit enough foreign and local volunteers to cater for the kids as we've always done in the past years. The impact is great and the need is high.

We say thank you for all our donors and we believe we'll be able to utilize the help of your support.

If all goes well, we'll be able to come up with some more uplifting news in a short time.

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Organization Information

Care2Travel

Location: Miercurea Ciuc, Harghita - Romania
Website:
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Project Leader:
Jackie Curtin
Miercurea Ciuc, Romania
$6,107 raised of $17,000 goal
 
101 donations
$10,893 to go
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