Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A Month in Romania in Photos

Okay, so  I still haven’t finished writing about my month in Romania… but I’ve had a long day and spend look at my photos approximately 10 100 times a day so I thought I’d share them with you (whilst giving me another excuse to look again).

Some of my boys from first camp - Levi, Lala and Marius

The boys in their football kit

Levi suits my glasses :-)

The kids queing up for food at the BBQ - over 150 turned up!

All the volunteers and a few kids at the BBQ

At the zoo with the cutest kids

All the kids and volunteers at the zoo

Enjoying being one of the kids :-)

Painting at one of the playschemes we ran

Round the back of the village where some of the poorest kids live

Me and my favouritist Joska

One of the games the kids play - would not pass health & safety in the UK!

Bela and Dudu traditional Roma dancing (they both had bruises on their legs after this)

Dudu, Pepi and Bela in their hats

Me and Dudu colouring in his folder 

Amazing dance off

Chicken with cornflakes (yes, that's right)

Last meal with the volunteers and helpers from the village :-(

Camp 1 boys balloon game

The volunteers turn at the balloon game :-)

Possibly my favourite pic - all 74 kids plus volunteers

The contrast of the back of the village and town

For more information on the work of the charity Aid for Romanian Children (ARC) visit their website.  

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

English Lessons, A Trip to Budapest & a Reunion With my Boys – Romania, Part 2

 So you made it back for part 2…. congratulations! :-)

After the first group of volunteers left, me and my friend Alice had a week off before the next group of volunteers arrived. We moved from the hostel we were staying in, to Katie & Jeno’s house in the village. This was this first time I’d stayed in the village, as we usually stay in a hostel in town where there is enough room for all the volunteers. It was quite surreal staying there after going so many times for just  few hours at a time.

We decided to teach the older boys who have been helping the English volunteers run the camps for several years now. When we first met the boys they were 14/15 and now they are between 15-18.  It’s been really strange seeing them grow up and change every time we see them (one of the lads is now married and living with his wife!). Being a teenager in the village is difficult, there is very little for them to do and without support from their parents there is nobody to drill in the importance of getting an education to them. Three of the boys have now dropped out of school and have very limited options available to them. In the four days we had spare me and Alice took them out of the village for a couple of days to teach them a little bit of English.

For our first English lesson we took the four lads, Lapi, Vergin, Gyozo and Feri to a beer garden and played pool to break the ice as we wanted it to be relaxed. We tried getting them to only speak English but that didn’t work very well whilst playing pool! So decided to go back to ‘proper’ teaching and gave them all a pad of paper and pens. It was great to see them writing and really taking care. Gyozo ripped up his piece of paper about 5 times as it wasn’t neat enough for him!

The walk back to the village was the highlight of the day. The lads had got confidence in speaking English at this point. Everything we passed we pointed at and told them the word in English and practised what we'd taught them already - sit down, stand up etc. It was amusing them suddenly stopping or sitting when we said something! What was even better was Gyozo shouting ‘What’s the problem’ across the street at a stranger. Luckily not many people speak English in Tirgu Mures (or don’t let on that they do anyway!).

The next few days of teaching them went well. I tried out my skills as a TEFL teacher and made little cards and got them to match them up to make sentences. It was going well until a gust of wind blew them all off the table! Despite trying our best to get them speaking in English it was conversations about girls, drinking or smoking that got them all talking – typical lads! It was great to see them taking in an interest in learning and even though we might not have taught them as much as we’d like, it’s more than they knew before and got them more confident in speaking English. Lapi and Vergin the older two lads, knew a bit of English but would never speak it so that was progress in itself! Vergin was even reading his notes on the walk down into town one day, which was really nice to see, as he'd been one of the quieter ones on the first day and we weren't sure if he'd return for day 2! 

For our last lesson we took them to see Batman in English with Romanian subtitles. I don’t think they had ever been to the cinema before. It’s little things like that, which we take for granted in the UK but it’s a real treat to them. Felt like such a mum buying them popcorn and drinks. We asked them if they enjoyed it and Gyozo looked really annoyed, he said he didn’t like it because Batman died so when we told him he didn’t he decided he did like it after all!

Vergin, Lapi, Feri, Alice and Gyozo at the cinema :-)

Me and Alice booked a couple of days in Budapest. After we booked it we realized there was a big festival, the Sziget festival on at the same time so we decided to go to that while we were there. I got a really cheap deal on a 5 star hotel, which was actually cheaper than most hostels so we couldn’t pass up on the opportunity! We enjoyed the 5 star luxury and all the touristy things around Budapest before heading to the festival. If you’re ever in Budapest Sziget festival is a must. Good bands, cheap beer, great location and a lack of festival idiots – what’s not to like?!

That's me and Alice with our Hungarian (not Italian) festival hats

On a bar suspending in the air on a crane (sorry Alice!)

After a horrendous plane journey back (see cheap beer reference and above pictures), we returned to the village for a day to relax before the second group of volunteers arrived. The second summer camp is the one I usually come for. The same kids go on the camp until they get too old and I've looked after the same boys for three years now. As soon as I saw them in the village they told me who else was going to be in our cabin this year!

Well, this has turned out to be quite long so I'll stop now! I'll post the final part of what should really be a book soon...

Thursday, 6 September 2012

A Month in Romania – Part 1

Long time no blog! I’ve just returned from an amazing month in Romania. Well, I say just it’s been over two weeks now but I’ve spent all the time since I’ve been back looking at my pictures, listening to the songs and just generally getting emotional. So, I’ve finally got round to writing about my time without bursting into tears (not so far anyway!). 

Before I start rambling, I’ll give you a little background into what I do in Romania (if I haven’t already bored you!). I started going to Romania in 2009 when I found out about the project through Leeds met university. The charity Aid for Romanian Children (ARC) work with kids in a poor Roma gypsy village in Transylvania. These kids live in horrendous conditions and have very difficult lives. ARC run two summer camps with the help of Leeds Met volunteers every year which take between 60-75 kids out of the village to have a week of fun and just generally allow them to be kids again. 

Without wanting to use a cliche (I'm going to anyway) volunteering in Romania has changed my life and the work that the charity do to help these kids in need is fantastic. I usually just go to Romania for two weeks, but decided to go for a month this time and go on both the summer camps. I flew out on my own to meet the volunteers who were already in Romania. Flying alone on a Wizz air flight is a scary enough experience in itself! As soon as I got to the hostel to meet the volunteers it was straight into helping with the preparation for the first camp, then after attempting to catch up on some sleep we had a early start to pack the bus and go pick up the kids to start the journey to camp (all 68 of them!). The first day of camp is always a bit mad with the kids running round excitably! Each of the volunteers is given a room of kids to look after for the week. I got a room of 8 boys, who are some of the poorest boys in the village. One of them, Peti, who I had in my first year has a really tough live and sniffs glue :-(  Seeing them being happy and enjoying what all kids should on camp couldn’t make me happier.

6 of my boys with their photoframes before we put photos of them in :-)

 This was my fourth camp with the same routine and you'd think you'd get a bit bored with it, but I don't at all. I still love watching the kids say grace before they even touch their food, seeing how much they love their new clothes and seeing them sharing their sweets with you!

The week on camp was made up of craft activities, group games, a sports day and lots of playing football. I’ve been learning Hungarian (the kids speak Hungarian not Romanian!) for a while now. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t understand or was able to speak that much in my first few days. One of the only sentences I picked up on was when playing football and one of the kids said to his friend that I played like a boy. To be fair it’s true, compared to most girls I probably do play like a bloke haha.

Some of the boys in their football kit – Marius, Levi, Lala, Petu and Peti :-)

On the last night of camp we have a disco with the kids. No matter how many times I see the kids dancing it will always amaze me. The kids learn traditional Roma dancing from a very early age and it’s impressive to say the least. The disco is always a fantastic night where the kids have a great time, but it also means it’s the last night we put our kids to bed for the last time as we had back to the village the next day. At least for me this time, I knew I’d be doing another camp.

The following day we left camp early and the volunteers said goodbye to the kids until the next day when we returned to give the kids their photos! Even though I wasn’t leaving the village, it was still quite emotional seeing all the other volunteers getting upset and the thought of me actually leaving after a full month wasn’t exciting me!

Well that was my first week in Romania, I’ll be posting about the rest of my trip soon! I’m sure the anticipation will kill you! In the mean time I'll leave you with some of my favourite photos from my first week:

Say cheese!

Levi, Lala, me and Marius

Me and Lala :-)

All of my boys and me and Laura!