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Jamie spends a fortnight volunteering in Romania

Jamie spends a fortnight volunteering in Romania

Read about how Jamie Moore (our Marketing and Communications Coordinator) returned from his two-week volunteering experience with a completely new perspective, along with how you can do the same with our Foundation for the Future charity.

A hesitant “Go on then” was my initial response to “Do you fancy spending two weeks in Romania?” as a relatively new Digital Marketing apprentice for Bolton at Home last May; but looking back, I’m so glad I made that admittedly hesitant decision over a year ago. Brushing over all the memories made- be it the new friendships built, skills and wisdom gained, or the sense of accomplishment having improved the lives of others abroad- I’d happily go back and relive it all over again.

Like Katy and Michael, last year I spent two weeks away volunteering with FAST Romania; a charity which exists to improve the lives of disadvantaged Roma communities dotted around the outskirts of Brasov, one of Romania’s largest cities. Founded by husband and wife Daniel and Ema Hristea in the late 90s, FAST Romania supports communities with better quality housing and vocational education for Roma people who don’t enjoy quite the same luxuries as Romanian people. The charity is based in what was once a Soviet workshop building, with the ground floor now used as a vocational school for local villagers to hone their skills in mechanics, woodwork, hairdressing and catering, and the top floor offered as accommodation for FAST volunteers and tourists of the local area. Previous volunteers from Bolton at Home helped facilitate the renovation of the then-derelict building from 2013 to 2014.

Destroyed home in the Roma village Zizin

After a flood had left many families of the Roma village Zizin with nothing, me and a team of 10 local people, be it college students, apprentices, or those currently out of work were invited to help FAST Romania get villagers back on their feet. One of our main jobs during the fortnight was to help lay the foundations for a new home to replace the flood-swept one shown in the photo above.

Foundations in the Roma village Zizin

Never before in my life had I constructed rebars and wooden braces, mixed, wheelbarrowed and laid cement. My normal working environment is an office, as was the case for many other team members; but regardless of background or upbringing, our two-weeks abroad offered each of us countless opportunities to pick up new skills, reveal hidden talents and experience things we’d never have imagined- all whilst getting to know the local people and indulging in Romanian culture.

One of the many hightlights for me and the team was the sheer appreciation and gratitude of the Roma people- young or old. Every day, as we pulled up in FAST's minibusses at the beginning of a new day's work in the village, we were immediately made welcome by the people of Zizin with friendly smiles and waves- and even in the face of the language barrier, most of the children had learnt all of our names within the first day or two. During breaks the kids would often challenge us to a game of football and it was little things like that really stood out as illustrations of just how appreciative they were of us.

Playing football in Zizin, Romania

Whilst aiding the partially flood-swept village of Zizin remained our main priority, team members also spent time in the neighbouring village of Tarlungeni; home to another community of close-knit Roma people. This was where the Mission House was situated; a place for toddlers and junior-aged children to play and learn with numerous games and activities. We helped out by preparing food for the children and supporting them with their learning, despite not knowing a word of Romanian!

Demand for such quality education in the villages was incredibly high; every so often children would knock on the doors or windows of the building only to be turned away given the school’s first come, first serve policy, a by-product of its small size that held around a third of the capacity of most small schools here in the UK. I was blown away by the difference in attitude towards school in these communities; children are often left at home with older siblings (if any) whilst parents leave to work long hours, meaning any opportunity to play and socialise with other children, especially in an environment as safe as the Mission House, is relished.

To say the trip was eye-opening would be an understatement. Every day brought with it new challenges to overcome, but the satisfaction of getting things done all whilst putting smiles on the faces of the Roma people made it worth it. In fact; the idea that we were ‘working’ quickly fizzled away as members of the team discovered what they were good at and just how quickly we could get things done tackling tasks together as a whole. The overwhelming fulfilment really outweighed the amount of effort we invested, regardless of how taxing some of the work might've seemed at first.

What’s my advice to anyone on the fence about volunteering abroad? ‘Go for it!’ is what I and anyone else lucky enough to have been involved in a fully-funded exchange abroad would tell you; and for good reason. You’ll come home with a wider perspective on life and a better realisation of just how lucky you are.

Watch the short film I created during my trip to Romania below:

You can also learn more about how you could get involved with a trip abroad to either Romania, Hungary or Slovenia through our Foundation for the Future charity.

Katy Henry and Michael Hutchings have also written blogs on their experiences in Romania.

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Tap4 issues

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  • a breakdown of how we spent EVERY PENNY from each pound of rent you'd paid us, 

  • how building NEW BUILD HOMES benefits you, regardless of whether you live in one, 

  • and the exact number of COMPLAINTS we’ve received, as well as some examples of how we’ve learnt from them (such as missed appointments, fly tipping, and our Antisocial Behaviour Policy). 

Want to read a previous issue of TAP4? No problem. They're listed below:

Past TAP4 issues (newest first):

Click here to read TAP4 Issue 7

Click here to read TAP4 Issue 6

Click here to read TAP4 Issue 5

Click here to read TAP4 Issue 4

Click here to read TAP4 Issue 3

Click here to read TAP4 Issue 2

Click here to read TAP4 Issue 1