Romania. Jul ’12

This was the third time I had volunteered for The Libra Foundation, a charity that runs summer schools for disadvantaged and disable children across Romania, and the second time I had been to Sacele.

This year I was a Team Leader. Along with Diana, Graham, Taffy and a mix of English and Romanian volunteers aged 12 to 18, we put on 2 weeks of arts and crafts, sports games and drama activities for children from in and around the town. The aim of the project was integration. The children were split into four groups according to age only, meaning Roma children, kids from residential homes and mainstream children would all paint, colour in, draw, stick, dance, sing and play together.

The project may sound simple but integration is a very touchy subject in Romania where the Roma population are completely marginalised and their existence often denied. This friction filters down through the generations and even with children of a very young age there were problems with bullying and signs of a feeling of social divide.

However, small steps like the summer schools run by The Libra Foundation help to slowly chip away at these social preconceptions showing people that no matter where you come from we are all at the end of the day human.

The work was tough. Long days, burning sun, and a lot of extremely excitable children. The numbers in my group increased daily making it incredibly difficult for Alessia, Lauren, Stefi, Bebeto and I to plan for the next days activities, madly trying to make as many spectacles, colouring in sheets and ogre teeth for the arts and crafts activities before the school had to be locked up.

The project theme was a Romanian folk tale called ‘Praslea and the golden apples’, a story full of princesses, magic trees, ogres, battles and of course golden apples. The first week was about trying to get into the rhythm of the day and understanding the needs of the kids. Our group were aged 5-7 so we had to keep a close watch if they got tired and by default mischievous. During the second week we prepared our scene for the play in which all the children would take part.

The performance was on the last day. We were the first to take to the stage in the echoey sports hall with 3 very small ogres, 3 very small princes, 5 very small golden apples and a very small king. Having different children from the ones you rehearsed with the day before did make things a little difficult but they had fun all the same, running about after each other in front of the audience.

Unfortunately due to child protection I can’t put up any photos of the children. But, after all the hard work; the endless games of Duck, Duck Goose, scrubbing of desks coated in poster paint, singing of the Hoke Koke, running around in the sun, doing obstacle courses and making golden apples, we did get to explore the town, sing some Karaoke and take a trip into Brasov.

Two weeks of hard work with a bunch of lovely people and a tonne of wonderful, bright children.

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