Prepared by Youth Volunteer Ambassador ‐ Andrei Enache, SPOC Youth Chapter
A good number of teenagers in North America start working young, around 16 and 17 years old, and this is good because it produces a healthy understanding of applied skills in exchange for material benefit.
Volunteering offers something more; in exchange for skills you receive a spiritual benefit – a feeling of Communion with God and the people around you. Young people in Romania are not interested in volunteering because their priorities are different. Children are raised to enter into competition with others; be it in academia or sports. Everybody fights for themselves in whatever way they can. When a young couple struggles to start a family because of economic challenges, volunteering just isn’t a priority.
At the same time, young people in N. America are in a unique position to give: we have an excess of material security and a strong love for our country. The excess of material security may bring a spiritual poverty, and this can be remediated by volunteering. Contrary to our Romanian counterparts, our enthusiasm for giving back to the country isn’t dampened by the day-‐to-‐day frustrations of actually living there. Having minimum responsibility and maximum enthusiasm gives us the opportunity to volunteer through St. Paraskeva Orthodox Charity, and to this end we’re creating a new youth chapter.
The youth chapter will be a means of connecting ambitious youth with Romania’s problems. This platform will offer North American youth the chance to develop in the Faith by actively living out the Gospel. It will offer Romanian youth role models for a different mentality, a different set of values they can choose to hold. The current situation is a tough one. The only way it can budge is with youth and with an external force.
Current situation: Volunteer efforts are limited and full‐time staff is required. Current volunteer efforts are deadlocked in anticipation of future cashflow. Two important events took place while I was there – an auction style fundraiser and the St. Onufrie yearly celebration. The auction raised $4,100 and the St. Onufrie event raised lots of awareness.
Beyond these two events, the next step will be pressing on State Orphanages to release children and their respective funds and also raising an additional 100,000 EURO needed to finish the administrative house.
These tasks are very challenging in themselves, but even more so for a weary volunteer team. Some individuals are operating at their limits while others are far from it. It’s clear that full-‐time staff is required for consistently managing the upcoming challenges. An on/off volunteering program can create as many problems as solutions.
Recommendation for youth: Bring your ‘can do’ attitude
A benefit of the American mindset is the ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’ attitude. This often conflicts with the Romanian mindset of ‘get by with the most personal profit with the least effort”. For instance, a Romanian pro bono team might lobby the local government to remove trash from a major nearby dam. An American one, might buy some equipment and choose a Saturday to get in the water to get this job done.
My recommendation is for youth volunteers from North America to come as they are: good-‐willed and ready to work. The obvious impact is the work of your hands, but the more important impact is your positive influence on the Romanian volunteering team around you. Leading by example is a powerful contribution to the local community. This isn’t easy, though, so North American youth volunteers should prepare seriously for this role.
In three years, the administrative house should be finished, and the Floresti monastery should also be finished building its new guesthouse. New houses around the monastery will be built and the local population will increase.
By this time, the social settlement should have a team of full-‐time staff for day-‐to-‐day operations. An internship can be awarded to a student from the US or Canada interested in social work. A possible aim of this internship would be to set up skill building workshops for older youth in the settlement. The idea is for 18 year olds who leave the settlement to be employable based on the skills they’ve learned at the settlement or some other skill-‐building center. This will mirror the process set-‐up at Valea Plopului, where teens can be sent to a nearby workshop to gain employable skills. For young men, this could mean car mechanics, woodworking, construction or agriculture. For young women this could mean cooking, child-‐raising or agriculture.
The systemic problem currently developing in Romania, is that more and more high school students are choosing not to take their baccalaureate exam to get their high school diploma. They’re not seeing a link between the effort required to take this exam and a potential higher quality future. If this is true, then skill building workshops will benefit:
- St. Onufrie youth,
- local teens who have low job prospects, and;
- anybody looking to gain a skill in their available time.
An initial investment is required for the land, building, and equipment. Full‐time employees are also required, and they could be funded in part by revenue from the ‘hobbyist’ segment, and in part by the local government. Construction materials prepared or mechanical equipment repaired through the teaching process could also be a source of revenue. The ROYA mission trip 2018 can include a visit to this site, perhaps one week with the whole group and one month for interested individuals. An official program should be set for the members staying to work one month.
Current situation: Money well spent
At this site, money is put to good use. Purchasing tables and chairs for a worn‐down grade school and providing scholarships for four girls is an example of direct, real‐world impact.
Recommendation for youth: Start fundraising
If you can’t fly out to Romania, you can still make an impact. A benefit to living in North America is the financial leverage gained from exchanging a US dollar into a leu. If an American student and a Romanian student each put in 20 hours of fundraising, and they’re equally successful on a relative basis, the American student’s impact is still four times greater.
Fundraising is built into our education from grade school so we already have an idea of how to do it. We’re on AmazonSmile, meaning that Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the St. Paraskeva organization. College students already tend to use Amazon Prime so it’s important they know about our presence on AmazonSmile too. There are lots of other online platforms like Indiegogo and Go Fund Me that work.
(More details on AmazonSmile: smile.amazon.com/ch/27-‐2860674)
There are also plenty of ways to raise money through selling homemade items. For instance, Maria Gorog from Michigan raised $1,300 by selling baked goods at her local parish.
A collaboration between Colegiul Sf. Nicolae and St. Parakseva youth. Colegiul Sf. Nicolae is the brainchild of Pr. Hrisostom Radasanu. He studied in the West where he noticed that volunteering was a part of the average young person’s life. He learned that serving others is an important part of human flourishing and that doing this before family life is key. Colegiul Sf. Nicolae offers housing for students of theology in Iasi and a wealth of volunteering opportunities. These students are required to volunteer at least four hours/week for their respective project. They’re organizationally strong and so they know best in terms of what problems can be solved and how. Students in North America can collaborate with Colegiul Sf. Nicolae by raising funds and forwarding them to the Romanian Sf. Nicolae team.
An extension of this idea is to invite members of the Sf. Nicolae team to intern in North America for a summer.
The benefit is two‐fold:
- they would be exposed to a different mentality to doing business in terms of professionalism and leadership values, and;
- they could fundraise by traveling to Romanian festivals across the country and selling various goods or performing dances or Byzantine chant.
A brief residence of one week at Colegiul Sf. Nicolae can be included during the ROYA mission trip 2018. ROYA members can interact with the Sf. Nicolae volunteers and benefit from venerating the relics of St. Paraskeva.
Current situation: Operation is well‐established but youth are not as active as they could be.
Alexandra Nadane is the president of Students for Life, Romania.
She comes to Valea Plopului often to consult with Pr. Tanase. She’s a great organizer, as evidenced by the fact that this year, 110,000 people came out to the March for Life across 138 cities and towns in Romania alone. She also has her own blog which you can be found here.
Having placed my confidence in her as a leader, I asked how we can help. She told me a major issue is that Romanian youth are scared to voice their perspectives on abortion in a public setting. This fear is rooted in our Communist past. As a student in Romania, a professor (especially if you’re in med school), boss or co-‐worker who doesn’t agree with your perspective, has the power to make your life extremely difficult. You can’t disagree with these sorts of people because they tend to play at a low level.
Recommendation for youth: Share your perspectives
In North America, the issue with sharing opinions, is that it may go against the overarching trend of political correctness. Still, upsetting someone on your Facebook feed doesn’t compare to the price you pay for the same actions, in Romania. My recommendation is to share your perspectives in whatever way you feel comfortable – blogs, videos, pictures, etc.
Your real impact here is in network effects – friends in Romania will see your message, share it with their friends, and in turn, inspire others to do the same. Changing the collective mindset of a nation is immensely difficult, but it’s got to start somewhere. Your courage can go a long way.
Alexandra is currently working hard on opening the first official center for women’s support in Bucharest. In three years there will likely be a second one since an excess demand over supply is expected for this first center. Students interested in social work are encouraged to intern at one of these centers during the summer time.
Another goal is to set‐up a Ted X‐style conference in Romania where youth from various countries come to talk about Pro‐Life perspectives. I’d love to see North American students give a talk about their experiences in the West tied to this issue. A networking event would follow where youth can collaborate on future initiatives.
This would involve raising money for a venue, finding keynote speakers, and marketing the conference properly. The idea is for this to become an annual international conference for youth in Romania and abroad. Individuals who can’t attend may still tune in through Facebook Live by themselves or in a group on campus.
The conference should be posted on YouTube afterwards. The motivation for this is giving people a chance to speak the truth. We’re going to say what we think, and live with whatever consequences follow. Youth should walk away from this conference with a greater self‐respect and a capacity to voice their own opinions.
We believe that truth is the cornerstone of society. Nothing makes the world better than to speak the truth.
Adults are typically afraid to talk because by having more responsibilities, the potential price to pay is too strong a deterrent. As young adults, we have minimum responsibilities and maximum energy for pursing such ideals, so we should make the most of this opportunity.