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April 2014

Junii Celebration in Brasov (written by Anissa Cohen and Ray Kraus, USA)   (published in Romania)

April 29, 2014 by   Comments(0)

This weekend, our volunteers participated in a very famous festivity of our Coty - 'Junii Brasovului'. This celebration is held every year, in the first Sunday after Easter, day which is called 'Duminica Tomii'. OIn the following lines, we invite you to read the impressions two of our current volunteers, Anissa Cohen and Raymond Kraus, both from USA, journalism volunteers within Projects Abroad Romania. They were both part of the Junii Parade.

Every Sunday after Easter, Brasov holds its Junii celebration, which translates literally to “the feast of youth.”  It is a festival that dates back so far much of its origins have been lost in myth.  Junii is a celebration of youth as well as a commemoration of the day Romanians were allowed to step freely into the once Saxon city of Brasov.  The celebrations stretch throughout the entire weekend in the form of markets, fireworks and live bands, however it reaches its climax on Sunday with the Junii pageant.  The pageant features young men dressed in traditional garb parading on horseback for the whole town to see.

                This year I was fortunate enough to observe this spectacle and join in on the fun.   We arrived to the parade early, so as not to miss out on a single moment.   The town square was buzzing parade goers holding balloons and ice cream and there was a sense of celebration in the air.  Although the parade was an hour late, what it lacked in timeliness it made up for in excitement, when a horse threw off its rider and kicked down the fence I had been standing at.  Fortunately no one was hurt and the parade soldiered on. The traditional outfits and saddles, some of which are over 150 years old, were truly a sight to behold.  The conclusion of the parade made way for live music and market shopping, allowing the center of town to remain a busy hotspot for locals and tourists alike. One thing is for certain, Junii is not a festival to be missed.
(written by Anissa Cohen)

On the first Sunday after Easter, thousands of residents and visitors of Brasov gather in the old city center for a traditional celebration that is a colorful reminder of spring and of Brasov’s history. The celebration commemorates the one day a year in medieval times when ethnic Romanians were allowed into the walled city of Brasov by the Saxon citizens.  Seven groups from different neighborhoods don traditional costumes and mount horses that are also gaily dressed up for the occasion. Each group begins its ride to the city center from its own neighborhood. As they come together, they make a long line of riders winding through the city streets and squares.

Crowds of spectators push close to the parade making horses, riders and the police quite nervous. As the Junii ride through the streets, they shout “Hristos a Inviat” meaning Christ has risen. The spectators shout back “Adevarat a Inviat! “, meaning Indeed He has risen.  A large crowd follows the last horsemen in the group while others head off for refreshments or to the many booths along the park that sell traditional craftwork items. If the weather cooperates it can be a joyous celebration of both happy custom and the coming of spring. 

(written by Ray Kraus)

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Junii Celebration in Brasov (written by Anissa Cohen and Ray Kraus, USA)
Junii Celebration in Brasov (written by Anissa Cohen and Ray Kraus, USA)

Volunteering in Brasov, My First Two Weeks (written by Jorn van Schaïk, The Netherlands)   (published in Romania)

April 28, 2014 by   Comments(0)

Something’s always drawn me to Romania. I don’t know why. I guess there’s something in the air here that you just don’t get anywhere else. Maybe it’s what you don’t see on the news or on the television. Romania doesn’t present the lure of an African jungle or a South American mountain top in the Andes (although those Carpathian mountains offer some of the most breathtaking scenery you will find anywhere!), but it has a charm all its own – a charm that only Eastern Europe can provide because it’s definitely an entirely different mindset from what Western Europeans are used to, being one of the notable inheritors of a communist past.

I’m staying at the apartment of an elderly lady here in Brasov – fortunately not in one of those old grey high-rise flats that populate the outskirts of this town (or in fact, most of eastern Europe and Russia – who decided that concrete was allowed as a building material anyway?), and one thing I notice here is that hospitality and politeness are way more emphasized. Food plays a bigger role here than it does in some western countries - and woe betide the one who refuses to eat! My host family keeps feeding me like I’m starving every day! I don’t know if they assume you have your mouth permanently locked up, but that’s what it feels like – at least to me!

Speaking of concrete – the center of town here is actually not made up of concrete, but it looks like the perfect medieval village – eat your heart out Knights of the Round Table, you’ve found a new home in the Transylvanian snow!  Somehow the Red Army did not manage to level the old towns here to the ground, which gives the area here a fantastic charm – old ruins dot the landscape of mountains and valleys, and I’m looking forward to making some treks out of town to other big cities here:  Sighisoara, Sibiu, and many more!  The architecture is German-inspired (and I mean by the Saxons, not the DDR, that’s the residential areas), which gives you the feeling like you’re in an old RPG adventure, questing. The relative lack of futuristic buildings adds to that – you feel among humans again, a nice change from the glass skyscrapers of the western world.

The first two weeks I have mostly spent volunteering in Tarlungeni, at an orphanage where I teach English (and as it has turned out, several other subjects), to the children. This has been a new experience for me given that I have never taught children before, only adults. The children are quite eager to learn but they actually need slowing down, as with 7 of them begging for your attention at the same time, teaching can become a little arduous. However, the children want to learn and take advantage of the chance they’ve been presented with, and it feels good to see smiling faces every afternoon when I arrive (and pretty sad faces when I leave). The children force me to eat lunch with them which to them is vitally important (especially the boys insist that I do so).

I will be spending more time elsewhere after Tarlungeni. I will be teaching at a school in Brasov, and also be working in Prejmer, but the orphanage is an experience I will never forget – because it is one that I don’t think I could have got anywhere else on this planet.

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Volunteering in Brasov, My First Two Weeks (written by Jorn van Schaïk, The Netherlands)
Volunteering in Brasov, My First Two Weeks (written by Jorn van Schaïk, The Netherlands)

Speak Out Competition in Brasov (written by Anissa Cohen and Elly Pugh)   (published in Romania)

April 17, 2014 by   Comments(0)


Speaking Out
(written by Elly Pugh, drama volunteer, Australia)

Did you know, public speaking is more commonly than death?
That’s pretty crazy, that people fear speaking in front of an audience more than dying. However, I could think of one thing that would make it even harder; how about public speaking ... in a foreign language. Now that would be terrifying.

Yet, every year in Brasov, a competition is held which does just this.

The annual Speak Out competition challenges students from both Primary and Secondary School to create their very own dramatic monologue ... in English. This task is something that most Australian students would struggle with. The rules don’t end there though, the students must structure their monologue on a provided quote, this year’s being, ‘It’s never too late for a happy childhood’ and ‘do not go where the path may lead, instead go where there is no path and leave a trail’ for the Primary and Secondary School respectively. The monologue must be five minutes long and each student is judged on a criteria ranging from originality of ideas to use of English.

This is where I come in. As a Drama volunteer I was tasked with helping a group of students from Colegiul Andre Saguna with their monologues, in any way I could. Thankfully, public speaking happens to be one of my stronger suits, (mainly because it was the only thing that was technically classified as a ‘sport’ at my school that I actually had a chance at winning in). I became very passionate about the competition to say the least. So, I was not clueless about the tricks of the trade and I hoped that I could potentially help these students.

My average group of students was around five or six; each week we would sit down, develop their ideas and get them to practise in front of an audience. Of course everyone’s biggest fear is forgetting their lines on stage and the only real way to prevent that is to practise, practise, practise. With each passing second the competition loomed closer and my students monologues became better, however, their nerves built.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the competition on the day due to scheduling conflicts; however, I did manage to find out the results of my courageous bunch of students. From my small group, one girl, Mara, won the Primary School category with her monologue about a princess and her newfound friend, a Secondary student, Andra, came fourth with her speech about a dream driven writer and was thusly selected to compete in the county round, and Antonia came third with her rock star centred monologue.

All of the students achieved well-deserved placements. I was impressed by all, given that my youngest students were in the 5th grade and had excellent English. Every student showed impressive amounts of creativity with their speeches and it made me all the more disappointed that they could not pursue drama as a subject, as I am sure many would excel. However, I think the lesson is clear here, the next time I am ever nervous to speak in front of a crowd, I should just remember, at least I’m not saying it in Romanian.

Speak Out!
(written by Anissa Cohen, Journalism volunteer, USA)

This year I was given the honor and privilege of acting as a jury member for the 6th annual Speak Out competition.  Speak Out challenges Romanian students ranging from 5th-12th grade to write and perform their own English monologues in relation to a prompt.  This year’s prompts were “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” and “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where this no path and leave a trail.”  Speak Out requires the participants to not only have excellent English skills, but to also be creative, resourceful and well spoken.  The 39 students participating in yesterday’s national level competition were the best of the best and had already won in their own regional competitions.  Participants were judged on a 20 point scale in creativity and originality, style, relevancy and coherency, style and English.  Judging such bright, talented students was not an easy task as they all provided such unique and passionate performances.  The winners and all those who participated are all gifted far beyond their years and I hope they will continue to share their gift with Speak Out in the years to come.


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Speak Out Competition in Brasov (written by Anissa Cohen and Elly Pugh)
Speak Out Competition in Brasov (written by Anissa Cohen and Elly Pugh)

Michael's Experience in Brasov (article written in Romanian by Michael Steiger, Switzerland)   (published in Romania)

April 14, 2014 by   Comments(0)

During the month of March, we had the chance to receive a passionate and enthusiastic volunteer on our Language Project. Michael, from Switzerland was a very thrilled and happy volunteer, willing to learn everything about our culture, traditions, through being involved in ‘Learning Romanian’ Course of Projects Abroad. He worked with our Romanian Teacher, Nandor Nemes and he was very good at it. At the end of his stay here, he was happy to write an article in Romanian, talking about his experience in Brasov. You can read and enjoy his article in the following lines! We would like to thank you Michael, for your amazing personality and for always being curious, open minded and enthusiastic about everything concerning our Romanian culture!


Experienţa mea în Braşov
(written by Michael Steiger)

Am fost pentru prima dată în vizită în România. Organizarea întregului proiect a fost foarte bine pregătită prin Projects Abroad.

Transferul de la aeroportul din Bucureşti la Braşov, plasarea într-o familie română şi prezentarea oraşului de către Georgiana au decurs conform planului.

Pentru că am vrut să învăţ româneşte m-am înscris la un curs de limbă. Datorită profesorului Nandor Nemeş am avut lecţii interesante şi educaţionale.

Aş dori şi să menţuionez că m-am simţit foarte bine cu familia gazdă. Vasile si Gica au fost prietenoşi, ospitalieri şi săritori.

Braşovul este un oraş frumos: oraşul este foarte curat şi sigur. Numeroase restaurante oferă turiştilor diverese preparate: peşte şi fructe de mare, mâncare chinezească, sârbească sau italiană. Şi bineînţeles mâncare traditiţională din România.

După patru săptămâni m-am odihnit bine şi aşteptările mele s-au împlinit.

Pot să recomand tuturor să viziteze o dată România.

(10 from 2 votes)
Michael's Experience in Brasov (article written in Romanian by Michael Steiger, Switzerland)
Michael's Experience in Brasov (article written in Romanian by Michael Steiger, Switzerland)

A Tuesday Traveler in Brasov written by Anissa Cohen, USA   (published in Romania)

April 14, 2014 by   Comments(0)

The medieval city of Brasov rests in the center of Romania, 166 kilometers away from the capital city of Bucharest.  Brasov is located within the South Eastern region of Transylvania and is surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains. The oldest traces of human activity in Brasov date back to the Neolithic Age, and as you walk amongst the winding roads, you can certainly feel a sense of history. 

I set about meandering the streets of Brasov, notebook in hand, with no particular destination in mind. My boots clomping against stone, I decided to allow the medieval paths to take me where they may. I followed along streets, lined with buildings smashed tightly together, their tall, lean windows encrusted with swirling, intricate decor.  The red roofs and peeling paint all seemed to tell tales of old. Behind the buildings rest the Carpathian Mountains, which appear to be straight out of The Grimm’s Fairytales. Atop one such mountain sits the Hollywood inspired Brasov sign, the easiest reference point, ensuring I never lose my way in this gorgeous city.

By the time I settle myself at a café at the City Hall Square beneath the Council House, I have four times been mistaken for a local, a problem I never encountered during my time in Asia. I feel a profound sense of shame each time I am forced to respond in English. While everyone has been incredibly kind and accommodating, I seek to be a traveler, not a tourist. Travelers are informed; tourists order their cappuccinos in English. The waiter smiles at his feet when I utter “merci”, as I most likely sound like a cow attempting to speak Japanese. A woman who catches me struggling through the trials of eating a chocolate croissant like a lady offers me her napkin; a gesture so observant and considerate that I cannot image it ever occurring at home in the States. I wish I could express my gratitude in Romanian, but hope my nonsensical mumbling, embarrassed smile and appreciative body language will succeed in sending this message. Smiles may be the universal language, but I’m fairly confident I look like a bumbling idiot covered in croissant crumbs.  Despite my indisputable idiocy, the woman maintains a sweet smile. This kind, generous attitude is something I notice spans across the general public of Brasov. It is a city of givers.

While Romania is a secular state with no official state religion, an overwhelming 87.6% majority identify as Orthodox Christian. As such, I paid a visit to a beautiful white cathedral next to the park. While the cathedral was empty of visitors on a Tuesday afternoon, it was absolutely filled with beautiful paintings.  There was not a space from floor to ceiling that wasn’t covered in detailed, colorful murals.  At the center of the cathedral was a high ceiling dome decorated with a painting of Jesus Christ.

I then visited Biserica Neagra, or the Black Church. The Black Church is the largest Gothic church between Vienna and Istanbul and it towers over the City Hall Square. It was built by Brasov’s German community between 1385 and 1477 on the site of an earlier church that was destroyed by Mongol invasions in 1242.  While it is a place of Lutheran faith today, it was originally Roman Catholic and entitled Saint Mary for a century and half before the reformation swept across Europe.  It is constructed of friable grit stones and andersite and features six portals, which each represent different architectural styles, ranging from Gothic to Renaissance.  The Black Church boasts the largest collection of Anatolian carpets, the largest mobile bell in Romania, and Italian Renaissance style murals. Biserica Neagra is also home to a 4000 pipe organ, with seven scales and four keyboards. It’s no wonder why the Black Church holds the title as Brasov’s most important landmark.

From the architecture, to the food, the generosity of the people, Brasov is a beautiful city with a firm grasp on its historic roots. It is a place filled with more things to see and do and experience that could ever be done in a month, let alone one day. Brasov has so much more to teach me and I look forward to calling it my home for the next few weeks, if I could only just learn how to say “Thank you for your napkin.”

(0 from 0 votes)
A Tuesday Traveler in Brasov written by Anissa Cohen, USA
A Tuesday Traveler in Brasov written by Anissa Cohen, USA

‘Loving is Giving, Giving is Receiving’ (written by Alexandra Ichim, drama coordinator)   (published in Romania)

April 10, 2014 by   Comments(0)

On the 27th of February 2014, Projects Abroad Romania Team were extremely proud and happy to present once again our Charity Show, ‘Iubind Daruiesti, Daruind Primesti’ (Loving is Giving, Giving is receiving), which reached the 7th edition.

Being initiated in 2008, when I started to work for Projects Abroad Romania, our concerts ended up in becoming charity shows, being a great method of raising funds for our care placements that most needed it. In each edition of these shows, we try to put together several performances, being coordinated by our drama volunteers, as a result of their work with our drama group of teenagers, for a period of 2 to 4 months. Having them named ‘Iubind Daruiesti, Daruind Primesti’, our shows really offer moments of harmony, ballance, sharing love and gratitude for all that we represent, for all that we are passionate about and we can offer to our audience. The performers are usually members of our drama groups, and also special guests, singers and dancers, who add on to our theatrical moments.  All the theatrical moments are in English, and the themes of each show differ in accordance to our current volunteers’ skills, experience and desire on what to present.

Throughout this 7th edition, named ‘Heart Strings’, this year’s first one, we presented a mix of drama, dance and music, as usual having as main performers the members of Projects Abroad Drama Group, coordinated by our drama volunteer, Elly Pugh from Australia.
There are so many ways to say ‘I love you’, but what does this even mean? How could four letters possibly encapsulate the strongest emotion humans feel? This show explored the concept of love by unearthing truths, finding reason and pulling at heart strings’ (Elly Pugh) The two drama performances we presented were a Monologue and a 45 min play which presented everything stated upabove. The play, named ‘The Waiting Room’  is a story of a group of recently deceased people, stuck in limbo. They soon find that their only hope of passing on, to the next life, is by recalling their greatest love. A task that is easier said than done. This was performed by the members of our drama group: Sabina Cristian, Sabina Sancu, Elena & Maria Teja, Madalina Dumitru, Alexandru Coca, Diana Chirovan, Miruna Icleanu, Andreea Acatrinei, Oana Juravlea, Ioan Butiu, Marius Hodoreanu. The main theme of the monologue presented by Antonia Jeflea was built on the quotation: ‘ Do not go where the path may lead, instead go where there is no path and leave a trail’


Our show wouldn’t have been successful without the participation of our special guests, local artists from Brasov: our two tallented singers, Daniela and Irina Serban and our dancers, Step in2 Salsa performance team and Libertango with three of their most amazing artists. We also had the entire support from professional photographers and videographers from Brasov, Buu Photography, BBArt Studio and Julia Jugaru. Furthermore, the show was presented by our passionate and pure Anastasia Abaitancei, together with our drama volunteer and trainer, Elly Pugh. Due to its importance, our event appeared in the local press and was very well promoted by our online press: Iubim Brasovul, Saceleanul, This year’s edition was held in order to raise money for Poplars Fundation, an NGO that works with and for people with disabilities. They were also part of our show with a puppet performance through which they taught us once again that love conquers and fights everything. They brought to our sight, once again how simple and happy we should be, how grateful of everything we have. So, thank you Poplars, for all that you are!

I am very happy to say that the result of our show was amazing, beng able to raise 1400 lei which means approximately 320 euros. As a feedback track to how the money was used, I was just talking to Lausia, the director of Poplars, and she gave us some lovely information: They organised a Celebration for Easter with all the clients, where they had lunch and they received gifts; they bought necessary products for their arts & crafts and occupational therapy activities; they paid some of their utility bills. They are very thankful for all that they were able to do with this money. Also, as a result of our event, they succeeded in finding more local artists to organise the same events for fund raising.

So, we are happy to announce that Projects Abroad gave the start in fund raising for Poplars, through performances based on Arts. There are so many local artists who decide to sing, dance or act for a cause and we are so pleased to be one of them! We continue in organising these events, and help in fundraising for different placements which are our collaborators! We are curious to see what the 8th edition will bring, but we want to assure our audience that it will be another quality show for a worthwhile cause. In the end, I would like to mention that none of all this work would be possible wihout the great involvement and dedication of our Projects Abroad Team: Georgiana, Rodica, Mircea and Razvan.

(10 from 1 votes)
‘Loving is Giving, Giving is Receiving’ (written by Alexandra Ichim, drama coordinator)
‘Loving is Giving, Giving is Receiving’ (written by Alexandra Ichim, drama coordinator)

Romanian Theatrics written by Elly Pugh, Australia   (published in Romania)

April 8, 2014 by   Comments(0)

Twelve teenagers. Five weeks. One performance. What’s a girl to do?

Now, if one were to volunteer for the Drama project in Romania (as I did), one would find themselves in the acquaintance of a group of highly intelligent, highly talented and highly hilarious group of youths. Operated by Projects Abroad, Blackjuice Theatre Group was established some years ago by Drama co-ordinator Alexandra Ichim. The group houses a gradually changing cast of Brasov-ians, most in their mid to late teens, whom are all very, very interested in acting. Each year, with the help of Drama volunteers, the group puts on a play. So naturally, with my arrival, another performance was planned.

I can tell you from experience, putting on a theatrical event is nowhere near as simple as some may think.  Thankfully, I had a bit of a head start, with a majority of my time in high school spent on a stage and hanging around fellow drama nerds, I at least new something about what I was doing. But for those of you who can’t tell their stage left from their stage right, their Oscars from their Tony’s, and scratch their chins at the seemingly very violent phrase of ‘break a leg’, let me explain some of the complexities of organizing a performance in a breakdown of steps.

Step 1 – Theme the show.

Okay, so strictly speaking this step may not be necessary when staging a conventional play. However, this of course was no conventional play. The Blackjuice part was only one of many performances of the show, therefore we needed and overriding theme. I recall sitting in the office in Romania, blinking rapidly, as if the theme was just going to appear to me like a sign from god. Eventually, after being informed that the performance would nearly coincide with Dragobeta (Romanian Valentine’s Day), the theme was determined to be, love. Lovely. Which worked out nicely as each edition of these performances are tagged with the line ‘Iubinddaruiesti, daruindprimesti’ (‘To love is to give, to give is to receive’). Right, so our theme was love, which was fine.AdmittedlyI’m not the most lovey dovey person in the world (well, not the type to cry unabashedly in The Notebook anyway), but hey, I was willing to give it a go.

Step 2 – Finding a play.

Of all the steps, I think this one gave me the biggest headache (and probably my roommates, as I wouldn’t shut up about it). Sometimes finding a play is not the simplest thing in the world. Especially when you’re a soon to be university student without the funds to pay for any sort of royalty fee. I needed a play, I needed it to have a cast of 12, I needed it at that very second, and I needed it to be free. Cue the countless e-mails sent to every theatrical person I know and scouring of the internet in search of something, anything! Slowly, I began to lose faith, the days were going by and I was losing valuable rehearsal time. Salvation came in the form of a ginger haired, vegetarian Scotsman ie. my old drama teacher. He suggested an old play of his, but proposed for he and I to rewrite it to suit the needs of my drama group. A week later and hey presto, the play, The Waiting Room, was born, and my headache was all but gone.

Step 3 – Rehearsing the play.

Now, we get to the fun part. Rehearsals are often tiring, strenuous, long, and if you have a nit-picky director, very annoying.Of course, they are also where a lot of fun happens too. Blackjuice and I descended into maddening fits of giggles far too many times than I would care to admit. Throughout the rehearsal process, though the entire cast worked extremely hard, scenes began to take on new meaning with our various inside jokes; with each run-through eliciting new one-liners for our quote board. If there’s one thing that I learnt whilst working with these young people, is that a rehearsal with Blackjuice can involve pufuletsi, gorilla costumes and confused pizza delivery guys more easily than one would originally consider.

Step 4 – Posters and Programs

Whilst in the rehearsal process Alexandra and I began all the other background work, (well, she did most of the organization stuff, but in my defence, I don’t speak the language). I was entrusted with the task of creating the posters and program. Thankfully, before journeying to Romania I made the last second decision to take my laptop, effectively saving me a whole stack of trouble. With my trusty laptop by my side, I created the poster. Of course, as this was being performed in Romania, the poster had to be in Romanian. Eight ‘finished’ copies later, I actually managed to get the spelling right and our posters were ready to go. The program was created in a similar fashion (although this time it was my English that was corrected multiple times).

Step 5 – Putting on the Performance

So after weeks and weeks of work, the performance night approached. It also marked my last night in Romania, so it was a fairly significant evening that’s for sure. Ultimately, at the end of the night I could not have been more proud of everyone involved in the performance. The audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy each act, which included dramatic monologues, musicians, dancers and even a puppet show. When it came to the play, it was no different. The audience laughed and ‘awwwwwed’ at all the right moments. Every member of Blackjuice delivered on the night (I knew they would), performing to their very best. In short, every time I think of the night, I cannot help the wide grin that appears on my face.

So there you have it, a Five step guide to organizing a show. Hopefully, now you can see, it’s a little bit harder than some may think. However, my experience was made significantly easier with the help of Ali and her wonder woman-esque organizational skills. Honestly, I could not have done any of it without her.

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed my last night in Romania; I was doing what I loved with an amazing group of people. The cast of Blackjuice are truly some of the funniest people I have met and I am so grateful to have shared my time with them. Ultimately, I don’t think I can quite put into words how amazing this whole experience has been, all I can say is, I know I will never forget it.

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Romanian Theatrics written by Elly Pugh, Australia
Romanian Theatrics written by Elly Pugh, Australia

My Experience in Romania, written by Catja Christensen (Care Volunteer)   (published in Romania)

April 4, 2014 by   Comments(0)

A horse cart creeps through the Transylvanian valleys, past fields and monasteries with religious paintings. The mountains surrounding Brasov is wrapped in the morning sun. The white snow and the dark trees create an image you would only see on postcards or in a nature documentary.The difference between day and night could not show the contrasts in Romania more clearly. At night partygoers stumble through the streets, white lightsspell out “BRASOV” on top of a mountain and the music from the Jamaica Bar lures you in.

I arrived in Brasov on a cold wet Sunday night. Not the best first impression, but I was optimistic, especially after I met my new roommate, Megan. Megan had arrived the day before me and we were going to work at the same orphanage together - a placement for children with disabilities. For the next four weeks, Megan and I would be together constantly. We would wake up together, eat together, take the bus together, work together, spend the afternoons together and go to sleep in the same room. Luckily Megan and I made a perfect team! 

As we went to the orphanage for the first time on Tuesday, I was a bit nervous. Some of my thoughts were: What if the children don’t like me? What if the staff members aren’t friendly? Will the fact that I can’t speak Romanian be a big hindrance? Should I have chosen to work with “normal” children? What am I even supposed to do there? Will I be able to change a diaper? But soon after we arrived, my doubt and worries disappeared.  When Megan and I went home,after the first day there, I was left with a feeling that it was going to be really good. There were so many things they we could do!

The children are aged 7 months to 17 years old. Only few of them could walk, the rest are either in a wheelchair or bedbound. It may sound scary or challenging, but it actually wasn’t. Yes, these children have disabilities but they are kids. They love the same things as other children. They love attention, being tickled, being picked up, being hugged, playing with toys, singing songs and clapping along. That is what we spent most of our time doing. We also helped feeding the children, changing their clothes and help the staff out whenever we could. Other than playing and helping the staff, we also tried to do exercises with the children. We identified problems that some the children had and tried to work on with them. We didn’t have any training or knowledge about this sort of thing, we simply used our imagination. The amazing thing is that we actually saw changes and progress for the children with whom we did excises.  Being able to see the changes was amazing, and it made all our hard work to be worthed.

Every Thursday afternoon Megan and I would teach English to some teenage girls. The girls were eager to learn, but they spoke close to no English at all, despite the fact that they have been taught in school since the age of 10.But they wouldn’t have needed us there if they already had spoken English.  The fact that the girls only knew little things, made teaching difficult. I would be lying if I said the language barrier wasn’t a problem with them at times. It was very hard, but very fun. We laughed a lot together. We would play word association games, talk to them about their lives, play hangman and helping them translating their favorite songs. Their eagerness to learn made everything much easier. The girls were absolutely wonderful.They were so sweet and teaching them was a lot of fun.

Everything about my stay in Romania has been fantastic - the other volunteers, the city, the nature, the projects abroad staff, then girls in our English class and of course the children at the orphanage. I will never forget their happy little faces when we sang songs and played or forget their laughter when we tickled them. The work at the orphanage for children with disabilities, Albina, has been so fulfilling. I honestly believe we made a difference in these children’s lives. I love the children and I miss them. Megan and I often joked that we would find Romanian husbands so we could settle down in Brasov and adopt all 45 children. The children will always have a special place in my heart.

Romania is such a beautiful country with a really interesting culture. I have seen and experienced so many things. The decision to go to Romania with Projects Abroad has been one of the best decision I have ever made.

I am officially a ROMANIAC.


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My Experience in Romania, written by Catja Christensen (Care Volunteer)
My Experience in Romania, written by Catja Christensen (Care Volunteer)