There is little known about mentoring children in Romania. There is a strong need for the less fortunate children from orphanages and disadvantaged families to have safe and educational time to learn and grow. Mentoring children is an essential part in any community. Children that come from working families spend many hours of their day occupying themselves alone and without guidance.
Youth development experts agree that mentoring is a critical element in any child’s social, emotional and cognitive development. It builds a sense of competency, boosts academic performance and broadens horizons. A mentor may instill responsibility and conflict resolution skills that transcend from a playground to the classroom, the home and the community.
Our project’s main goal was to provide children with better-organized free time that would involve them in a variety of activities that reduce injury and conflicts while motivating them to be socially and physically active. The project also helped to enable extended practice opportunities in developing motor, social and cognitive skills through various activities and games out of school.
The focus of this project expands on a successful mentoring pilot project that I initiated and conducted in 2008 at Habitat for Humanity Pitesti, in order to create a sustainable program to offer the disadvantaged children of Habitat for Humanity homeowners and children from a local orphanage the opportunity to have a positive mentor. The project promoted a positive idea of mentoring and volunteering in Romanian society. Disadvantaged and orphaned children were involved in the social life of the community through interaction with other youth.
The project built on and enhanced the capacity of Habitat for Humanity Pitesti to create a happy and safe lifestyle for the children and their families. This project goal was to enhance the assets of the community by providing on-going youth education and leadership training.
At Habitat for Humanity Pitesti my team and I have always been concerned with the wellness of our partner families and local orphans/disadvantaged children and we tried to develop various projects with the purpose to maintain and improve the social interaction within the community. The main goal of the project was to show disadvantaged youth that they could become upstanding members of the community by interacting with HabiTeens (our youth organization). The children were given the chance to have a great time without their everyday worries. The results were determined by the amount of time the HabiTeens spent with the children one-on-one during and after the project.
The long-term goals for our Mentoring Project were:
• Provide high-quality, sustainable, community and youth development education (HabiTeen training sessions);
• Strengthen local partnerships between Habitat for Humanity, the local orphanage, University of Pitesti (Department of Social Work), Arges County Child Protection Authority and Pitesti City Hall;
• Provide on-going support for disadvantaged children and mentors, helping to develop leadership skills, build teamwork, and participate in local youth development.
• Establish 30 trained mentors in the community of Pitesti;
• Provide educational workshops for 30 HabiTeens and community members, specifically focusing on responsibility and educational leadership;
• Mentoring 30 disadvantaged children from the community;
• Develop high quality educational materials that will serve as a foundation for ongoing HabiTeen and community education.
Mentoring has gained significant momentum as a way of helping young people to overcome the complex challenges they face in today’s society. Along with parents, mentors help young people realize their potential by providing them with support, advice, encouragement and friendship. Mentoring is a strategy for helping young people live up to their academic, emotional and social potential. Mentoring can also promote positive outcomes, such as improved self-esteem, social skills and career development both for the mentor and the child. Another result of this project was promoting volunteering among youth.