In 2007, I realized that one of the main issues for the children from Romanian disadvantaged families and orphanages is the lack of a positive mentor figure. In the disadvantaged families, the parents usually had no time to spend with their children being too busy with work to ensure family survival. In an orphanage, the small number of the establishment staff is always insufficient to have a proper relationship with the children.
At that time, I was proud and happy that HabiTeen, the new youth organization of Habitat for Humanity Pitesti was growing very fast and naturally I thought that they were the best option to get help for this new project.
One year later, in 2008, this project became possible with help from my colleagues and a Peace Corps grant obtained by Christina, who was in charge with the development support for the new youth organization – HabiTeen.
HabiTeens were chosen to participate in the Mentoring Project based on their positive attitudes, creativeness, responsibility and most importantly their time availability. The mentors attended general education classes that focused on working with disadvantaged children, responsibility, attendance consistency, tutoring and mentoring. The classes described how to establish and maintain a bond with the children, and the benefits for themselves in working with disadvantaged children.
We had a group activity at the Park for the mentors and mentees. First, the mentors painted all of the mentees faces with face paint. The children were very excited to turn into clowns. Then each mentor made a friendship bracelet for the children to remember their time together. We ate a lot of goodies and drank juice then played in the playground. The children also used a bucket full of sidewalk chalk to turn the cement into colorful masterpieces. Catalina, a mentor, said “it was very funny to see Georgiana’s interpretation of what I looked like drawn from chalk. She was very happy to show me what I looked like.” Some of the children even got up on the stage and sang for the crowd. Who knew paint, string and chalk could keep children busy for hours and hours. The day ended as the sun was setting and we heard from the orphanage headmaster that the children all fell asleep on the way home…..a success for us!
The Mentoring Project had a group activity at the local zoo where the mentors spent some time getting to know their mentees. The day was very exciting for the children because they got to feed some animals. It was also very educational because they learned about all the animals and habitat surrounding them. We ate a picnic lunch and played in the playground. The children had a lot of laughs especially when the deer started head-butting their caretaker and when the monkey was opening sun flower seeds very carefully. It was an event packed day and we were told that the children went to bed early that night and slept very well after their excitement.
The Pilot Mentoring Project was a big success for all of us: young members of HabiTeen, Habitat for Humanity staff and our institutional partners, but above all it was an incredible success for the children, our mentees. Because of this, our partners and us decided to create a new Mentoring Project at a bigger scale in order to allow us to include more children in need of a mentor. Read about this new Mentoring Project that we succeeded to create in 2009-2010.