When I first entered the area of the foster homes in Tarlungeni, I was immediately surrounded by almost 20 kids, who tried to hug me and kiss me or to tell me something in Romanian – so I felt really welcomed from the first second there.
At this placement I spent most of the time of my project, as I went there twice a week for four hours. We had the kids splitted into 4 different groups, having the oldest, the middleage and the youngest ones together. These three groups were within Lizuca and Patrocle Foster Homes. The fourth group was at another placement, Arlechin, which was at about five minutes away from the other two.
On my first day there, I figured out that it was difficult for them to concentrate on therapy exercises too long, especially for the youngest ones, as many of them were not older than four years. Therefore, I tried to find a well-balanced mix to work with them and the more they got used to me and to what I was teaching them, the better they got.
I always did the sessions together with Laura, the psychologist of all three foster homes, what was a great help for me. It was good to have her with me, firstly of course because she translated for me, but also because she knew all the children very well. She knew about their strenghs and weaknesses, so she could really help me in difficult situations.
For all of us one thing was clear from the beginning: we would do a performance at the end of my project, as all the kids were very excited to show what they’d have learned.
For that reason, every week I split our lessons into half an hour of dance therapy and half an hour in which we worked on different dancing routines. Sometimes it was difficult, because the kids wanted to change groups all the time, or they forgot the steps and someties I also had problems not to confuse the four different dances.J
However, after five weeks of rehearsing and training, the great day had come. Many of the kids had invited their teachers or friends and also many of the other Projects Abroad volunteers were there, so the children had a lot of people in the audience.
We decided to do the show outside because the weather was very nice, and when all of the children were running around in the garden it was an imense chaos J
Then, we started the music, tried to gather everybody and the we began with the performance and I can say that everything turned out amazingly well.
All of the kids did a great job, and they had so much fun. After we had finished the dances they didn’t want to leave the „stage“ so they kept telling poems, singing songs or doing other performances that former dance volunteer, Corinne Carton taught them several months ago – I was so proud of them.
So to sum up, it was a very nice day and I’m glad that I had the possibility to meet all those wonderful children! Thank you!
„Maybe you could set up a small dancing performance with them.“ – that was what they told me after my first session at the SCUT day care center in Brasov.
What they had asked from me was to set up a routine, in three weeks, so, to prepare a performance with people I had never been working with before within four dance sessions. Not to forget that I came here to work mainly on dance therapy with clients in day care centres.
The SCUT day care center was the first placement where I went to do the dancing project, mainly dance therapy sessions. I worked there with adults with mental disabilities, but as I figured out soon, their level of perception was very high. With those people, I started doing dance therapy, however, after our first session, I realised that they were able to do more, so that’s how I decided to start teaching some dancing routines.
So, my work there was very manifold, as the people were having great expectations. It seemed to be very easy for them to get deeply into the dance exercises and also to express and talk about their feelings during our sessions. Moreover, they also did a great job with the choreographies I taught them, and, the most important thing for me was that they had a lot of fun during my dancing lessons.
Not being sure whether there was enough time to work on something for the final performance, I just decided to give it a try and see how far we could get.
By all means, after a month of holding dance therapy sessions and dancing routines together with them, the week of the final performance had arrived and everybody was pretty excited. Danielle, the drama volunteer, had set up two short plays for the show with them, and although they weren’t perfectly sure about our routine, we decided to do the dancing part too – everything was just about having fun and enjoy ourselves in front of the audience!
A few minutes before the show started, all of them were very nervous but then the music went on „Come on let’s Twist again“ and all of them were just forgetting their doubts and insecurity. They danced just to have fun, smiling and singing with the music and the whole performance turned out to be amazing.
All in all, it was a great success and in my opinion it perfectly transmitted an important message – it’s not about being perfect, it’s about feeling good with what you are doing!
„Music expresses what can’t be said, but what you can’t keep silent.“ is a quote by the famous French writer Victor Hugo. This quotation, mainly expresses the basis of music and dance therapy.
Dancing, improvisation and self expression as a possibility to help people, has always been very fascinating for me, as I have been dancing since I was four years old and I’ve always loved to work with people.
The first time I really got in touch with it, was about two years ago when I started to write the report for my graduation, about music and dance therapy. I wasn’t interested in just writing down theoretical facts, but I also wanted to understand how dance therapy works and how it can influence people. Therefore, I was very glad that I had a friend who works with children suffering from Down’s syndrome who she gave me the possibility to really experience the therapy and to work out the information I had collected for my report. After the six months of working on my paper, I was sure there is much more behind dance therapy than what I had explored and I started to search for more possibilities to work with it.
When I found the dance project from Projects Abroad, in Romania, it was clear that it was exactly what I wanted to do as I had been planning to do volunteering work for one year after school anyway. However, when I arrived here, in Romania, and saw my busy schedule that Alexandra made for me for the following months, I started to have some doubts about me dealing with all those responsibilities. I wasn’t sure whether I would really be able to handle all of those challenges – there were so many different day care centers, foster homes and schools, a mix of dancing routines and dance therapy that were included in my daily schedule that I wasn’t sure if my experience would be enough.
But for all that, on my first working day I told myself that I just have to try to respond to the people I would work with and to do my best.
Dance Therapy Placements
The SCUT day care center was the first place I went to. It is a center for adults with mental disabilities who just come there for certain activities. At this place I mainly focused on dance therapy, although I tried to teach them some basic steps too.
Alexandra, the dancing supervisor came to the placement with me, to translate, which was very appeasing for me, because I didn’t have to go there alone. What I can tell, is that this first workshop I did at SCUT was an absolutely amazing and motivating experience for me.
Of course not everything went perfect, it was just about getting known to the people there and figuring out what exercises were appropriate for them. However, although it was the first time I’ve met those people, I could already feel a connection growing between us while we were dancing and that is the most fascinating thing about dance therapy.
The „Rafael Center“ in Codlea was the second place, where I worked with adult people with mental and physical disabilities and although some people there had a very low level of perception, the work in those two centers was very similar.
I also worked with disabled children and teenagers at Hàrman and with kids who suffer from Down’s syndrome at ‘Micul Print’ Day Centre in Brasov. From my experience, it is more difficult to work with younger people, because it is less easy for them to let themselves go and to really get involved in the exercises. In spite of what I already knee, my work there had very good results.
The second type of placement, was the foster home in Tarlungeni – at this place I spent most of the time of my project, as I went there for four hours twice a week. I started with just doing dance therapy there, but soon I figured out that it is much better for them to mix therapy exercises and dancing routines. They had so much fun with the choreographies we did and were really improving very fast, so that we could even have a small performance at the end of my work there.
By all means, this process of finding out what is the best way to work with a group is very important for dance therapy.
Dance Therapy Sessions
Generally, during the first sessions, I mainly tried to figure out the strengths and the weaknesses of the people in each group and then to work out a plan for the following workshops.
In my opinion the sessions should be a challenge for the participants, but in the same time, it shouldn’t be too difficult – nobody should have the feeling that they can’t handle it. When I teach dance therapy, I touch the main sections of exercises, such as: working on strengthen the muscles – this one being very useful for people with physical disabilities; working on developing members’ interaction ( mirroring and copying each other); activities on self expression. The dance sessions were always ended by exercises working on the group cohesion. Touching all these sectors is very important; yet, the most consequential thing is to talk everything through – after each exercise and at the end of each session.
It is fundamental to talk about feelings and experiences. Talking makes the unconscious conscious and that is the point which makes dance therapy so special. It doesn’t work one-track. It gives you the chance to become aware of your body and your feelings and express them in both – a nonverbal and a verbal way.
All in all, I wanted to say that, for me, the dancing project was an amazing experience. I learned so much in those short five weeks and it is incredible to see how much some of the people have already improved.
Of course it is not always easy to work with disabled people but there are those special moments, which compensate for all the hard times. There are those instants, when you just feel such a strong connection to the group or when you see their joy while they dance or when they tell you something very secret and show you that they really trust you – those moments when you just feel that what you do is right and that dancing connects people!
I arrived in Romania nearly two months ago with no idea of what to expect in any aspect of this trip, from the social point of view to the work side. I knew that I would be working with Projects Abroad’s own drama group Black Juice, and also working towards the mini project, a small performance that would be taken into foster homes and day centre’s to children. I knew however that there would be more and that it would be a worthwhile experience here.
I talked to Alexandra on my induction day, telling her about my future goal of hopefully getting my masters degree in Drama Therapy and saying that I wanted these two months to be part of the necessary experience I need to apply. This gave Alexandra an idea, there are a group of disabled adults in a small town nearby Brasov, in Codlea that had been given the opportunity to have dance therapy sessions over the past summer and she asked would I be interested in giving them Drama therapy sessions. I said yes OF COURSE and started working on Mondays and Wednesdays for one hour a day, taking one group, a ‘higher perception’ group and a ‘lower perception’ group. Unfortunately, it became apparent on my first session with the lower perception group that I would have to cut the amount of time with them in half, so my Wednesday sessions were changed until Fridays for half an hour.
I also started working with a different group of disabled adults at a different day centre, this group having a much higher level of perception than both groups in Codlea. This group I take on Wednesdays again for one hour sessions. On the one hand, it’s a lot harder to work with this group, but sometimes I find it even easier, due to their levels of perception and their disabilitites. This group can do a lot more independently: they can create improvisations and short pieces without a need to break things down that much or think of things simply. However, that also means that they have the ability to judge you on what you do with them, so I had to keep it interesting so as not to bore them in any way.
With each group I started with using the ‘name game’, which involves my group standing or sitting down in a circle giving their name and a movement to go along with their name, and having that name and movement repeated by the whole group taking turns. This is a great way to get to know each other’s names and help to bond as a group. I used to see these guys once a week and it took me a while to be able to remember the different pronunciations of their names, this is why the game has been transformed in a routine to break the ice of my drama therapy workshops. To end the session I usually asked what they thought of the session and what exercises they liked most, with the drama therapy group in Brasov, because they have a better understanding of what you are asking them to do. Also, I had other questions to ask, such as: How do you think these sessions have helped you? What have you learned from these sessions? Would you come to these kind of sessions again? and ‘What, have you learned about yourselves and can this help you in the future? ‘
The difference between the groups I worked with are immense, their communication skills are so different, but they are so much fun to work with. It was a great experience working with all group of 3 different levels of perception: with one group I stack to games, with the other one, I taught drama games and the actions to a short poem that they would perform before I needed to leave and finally, with the third group I worked on preparing them to perform a short drama piece on disabilitites.
I worked on putting up a show on one poem that talked about Disabilitites. I have been working on that poem with the higher perception group in Codlea and also with the Group at Scut Day care Centre – for people with mental disabilitites in Brasov. The group of members in Scut have developed the simple poem into a 15 minutes performance, by themselves together with my directing work, putting up together two short scenes. In the first scene, they were students at university learning about disabilities from their teacher, and in the second scene, they presented the life of two disabled adults trying to find work. The result was amazing, and everyone was very thrilled of what they’ve seen. The audience was formed byAlexandra, the drama and dance supervisor from Projects Abroad, my parents, Scut Staff Members, relatives of some of the members, as well as other people that were interested in the centre.
All of these groups gave me important lessons of their own, such as: to take your time and be patient, to always appreciate the people, family and friends you have around you. To live everyday as you never know when it could change!!! These lessons are something that I will take with me throughout my life and career.
I’ve loved being able to work with these groups and gain experiences that just would not be possible or available at home. I cannot pick between these groups as to a favourite, all of them having worked so hard in their own ways. Whatever I ask of these groups as long as I realised the limitations without making it too simple for them, they did and I cannot ask for more than that. Trying and wishing to try is enough. I do hope and wish that they enjoyed the drama therapy classes that I taught, that they found them beneficial and would not shy away from more sessions of drama therapy, if the opportunity arose.
These two months have passed so quickly, that it does not feel that it has actually been 8 weeks, in some ways I feel like I’ve always lived here, I settled in so fast but in other ways, 8 weeks is just the right amount of time for me and I will be glad to get home and back into a routine. With the experiences I’ve had here I’m sure that finding a job and hopefully eventually getting my Masters, won’t be just as scary or impossible as it once seemed.
The first married couple that we had as volunteers were from Tasmania: Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Paul and Julie-Anne).
Paul is a professional carpenter and he works at his own construction company. He came to Romania to share his experience in a community project and he worked in Tarlungeni and Zizin helping to build houses for Rroma families together with Daniel and his team from the organization FAST.
Depending on the weather, they put up roofs, insulated walls, made doors, ceilings…On his second week here, on a rainy and muddy day in the community, we visited a family of 8 (the parents and their 6 children) who were waiting to move into their new house.
This visit made us understand even more the importance of this project and the urgent need for a new home, especially with the cold season knocking at our doors.
Julie-Anne worked together with Jacqueline (and Paul for a few days) in the Sacele hospital with babies and children opening every day the Play room and making their stay in the hospital happier.
Beside the work at the hospital, Julie-Anne was busy with a few other projects: she bought an audio device for Maria, a little girl living in the shelter Domino in Ghimbav, bought and helped with making 150 packages containing food and a pair of pyjamas for all the patients with mental disabilities from Vulcan Hospital, took 36 children from the Foster Homes in Tarlungeni to Zao Park, bought some medical devices for the Sacele Hospital, helped at the renovation of the English Laboratory in School nr.7 in Brasov. Paul helped also with the renovation as much as possible in the short time and with the existing tools, coordinated our work there and fixed the three doors of the laboratory and the office near it. Jacqueline offered her help in all these projects and did a great job.
Thank you all for your extraordinary work and thank you Julie-Anne and Paul’s friend for the generous financial support that made all these projects possible.
During summer time, the Projects Abroad journalism volunteers worked together with the journalism supervisor to coordinate the children at Prejmer Summer Club in creating their own English Magazine.
All the work started in June, when the Summer Club opened its doors for the all children in Prejmer that wanted to take part in different activities. Among activities such as Drama, Dance, English lessons, Arts & Crafts workshops, we also had journalism classes, all being taught by our volunteers.
During the Journalism Mini-project our volunteers Erika, Sinead, Catherine, Victoria and Masato, and me as their supervisor, worked together with a group of seven children in creating a magazine. First steps were taken in the first sessions: we established the main sections of the magazine related to the children’s hobbies and interests, we divided them into pairs, got them to interview one another and taught them everything related to planning, structuring, researching and writing their articles.
The workshops were once a week, when volunteers worked for one and a half hours with the children. They helped them create their articles and correct them. Through this mini-project, the children improved their English and also learned how to write good articles. They formed a great journalism team being very keen to learn as many things as possible from our volunteers.
In the end, after two and a half months of working on their articles, the children came up with several names for their magazine from which they picked the most interesting and descriptive one: ‘Children’s World’, having as its subtitle: ‘Tiny Thoughts of Prejmer’. The magazine was distributed at The Friendship Celebration at the end of the Summer Club and all children, relatives and staff members were very thrilled with the final result. The layout was made by me together with Masato and the articles were verified and corrected by Erika, Sinead, Victoria and Catherine. Well done everyone, we were all very proud of the final copy of the magazine. Thank you!
Please find journalism mini-project magazines on-line! Journalism Mini-Project consists of the creation of a school magazine. The Projects Abroad journalism volunteers created two magazines: one in a primary school, called Brainstorming News and one at a day care centre in Prejmer, about which we already gave a complete description in the article above.
1. Brainstorming News is an English Magazine that Projects Abroad Journalism Volunteers created together with Alexandra Ichim, the journalism supervisor and Mrs. Simona Buzea, the English Teacher from School Anathol Ghermanski in Brasov.This Magazine represents the Journalism Mini-project that the volunteers work on besides their daily journalists responsibilities. The volunteers worked with a group of 6 children and created Brainstorming News Magazine.
Brainstorming News, Issue no 1: http:/
Brainstorming News, Issue no 2: http:/
Brainstorming News, Issue no 3: http:/
Brainstorming News, Issue no 4: http:/
2.Prejmer , Wake Up and Children's World are the two magazines created with a group oo children at a day care centre in Prejmer during the summers of 2009 and 2010. The children worked together with the Projects Abroad Journalism volunteers and created an English magazine. This is part of the journalism mini-project, when journalism volunteers have to teach and guide children in the journalistic techniques. The project is supervised by Alexandra Ichim, the journalism supervisor of Projects Abroad Romania.
Prejmer, Wake up - http:/
Children's World - http:/
Enjoy reading them!!
Scut NGO is the newest placement that Projects Abroad Romania chose to collaborate with for the following three projects: Drama, Dance and Care.
The Family of Scut is guided by a quotation from Richard Bach, which says that ‘The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life’. Besides the special words that represent their motto, this association focuses on creating, developing and promoting community services for the people being marginalised in a society.
In order to complete their mission, Scut Association has established some objectives that they try to follow every day through their activities. Some of their objectives are: the social and mental prevention, recovery and rehabilitation for people with mental disabilities; the integration of underprivileged teens; awareness of local community on supporting the process of social reintegration of people with mental or physical disabilities in Scut.
In order to accomplish most of their missions, Projects Abroad Romania chose to collaborate with them, in taking volunteers to Scut’s placements and doing activities on Drama, Dance and Care.
Scut has four projects on which Projects Abroad volunteers are helping. The first one, the Day Centre in Brasov, is a placement for adults with mental disabilities such as: schizophrenia, behavioural disorders, depression and dementia. Projects Abroad volunteers work with them on Drama and Dance Therapy 2 hours, once a week. The people there love the projects and are very enthusiastic about both dance and drama therapy sessions. At the end of our volunteers’ projects in Romania, the people in the Day Centre will put together a dance and drama performance. Starting with September, we will also collaborate with the people in the Day Centre through the Care Project, where they will have Art Therapy sessions held by our Care Volunteers.
The second project on which our Projects Abroad volunteers are helping is the After Care Project in Brasov. This project is dedicated to young people between 14-20 years old who come from different day care centres or foster homes in and around Brasov. These people are helped being integrated in the society and they attend drama workshops held by the Projects Abroad volunteers. The Drama volunteers’ role is to teach them drama techniques in English that would help them in their day to day life and also on stage. At the end of the volunteers’ project in Romania, they will put together a drama performance, where the teens will have the chance to show what they have learned during the drama classes.
Moreover, Projects Abroad’s new placement is part of the After Care Project in Codlea, 20 minutes away from Brasov, in Aurora Complex. Projects Abroad volunteers are working with a group of teenagers between 14-20 years old, by holding dance and drama therapy sessions.
Nonetheless, another placement which needs our help is called St. Patrick’s House, where our dance volunteers work with a group of 11 teenagers between 14-20 years old with behavioural disorders or mental and physical disabilities. The volunteers going there are holding both dance therapy sessions and are teaching them simple dancing routines.
To finalise, we hope that the collaboration between the Scut Association for Social Services and Projects Abroad will be a long one, from which both the beneficiaries from the day care centres or after care projects and the Projects Abroad volunteers and staff will have something to learn and will gain a great experience. Thank you Scut members for offering us the possibility of working with you.
Well, today started as a very ordinary sort of day. There wasn’t a particular time to be in the office, so I slept in. When I arrived at the office, the morning had mostly passed and Allie was doing my schedule for the next two weeks, so I went and checked my emails and facebook page before starting down to work. When I looked up again I noticed that Allie was taking photos of some boxes of food which I had acknowledged when I entered the office, but didn’t take much notice of. When I asked why she was taking the pictures, she told me that these boxes were to be delivered to a hospital for the disabled (both physical and mental disabilities) that same day. The boxes contained products of food and fruit, bought with money donated by Julie-Anne and Paul Smith, husband and wife from Australia, volunteers working on the care project. Then Allie asked me if I’d like to go as well, in case there was more room in the car. Of course I said yes, as I’m here to learn and gain experience in any possible way!
I was warned that I would need to be strong, that conditions at the hospital were not good and one key rule is that everybody sticks together at all times. And with that, we left for the hospital. It wasn’t a long ride but it was enough to hear that conditions at the hospital were such that it would never be allowed at home.
When we got there, we had a drop off to make before we got through the gates (which were open with a small influx of patients ‘escaping’ through them as fast as possible). When we got inside the gates our first point of call was to leave bags of clothes off at the depository – we had herds of people crowding round us, some looking to help, most looking for cigarettes which were handed out by a senior supervisor that was with us. Once the clothes were handed over to the nurses, we made our way up the steps into the main building to hand out the food and we were followed by adults, desperately looking for attention.
I was shocked and truly saddened by what I saw – tiny rooms with at least four hospital beds pushed up against each wall, at least eight to a room, just waiting for the small packages of food we were bringing. In each package one banana, one bar of chocolate and one other piece of fruit, either an apple or a nectarine, that’s all we had to give them, but they accepted so willingly what we had, and were so thankful just to see someone other than the nurses (families don’t come to visit them, too ashamed that their family member has a problem or simply not knowing how to cope). It is heartbreaking!!!! I wished I could do more than hand them a bag of fruit and shake their hands, it doesn’t feel enough to do as little as we did, to pose in a picture with them, which we did just before we left. The camera was taken out and the crowding started again, people wanting a picture taken or simply wanting to play with the camera. How are they so deprived of attention, I do not know!!!!
If I had more time in this country I would do something more!!!! I would love to have the time to look into researching and planning therapeutic activities within the centres. There are people at the hospital who love to paint and to sing or play an instrument. What I wouldn’t give just to send a professional into the hospital, someone trained in music therapy or art therapy, to give the people something to do, to keep them from going mad with boredom.
I didn’t know how to explain how I felt to Alexandra, I still don’t know if I could explain it properly; probably not; but I know I feel humbled and blessed that the people around me did not give up, that they kept trying to give me better opportunities, even when the doctors were not giving me any. I always had the support of my family!!!!
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