In Romania, the young people from orphanages are forced to leave these establishments after they reach 18 years of age without having too many options about a job or a living place. These orphans are only required to attend school until the 8th grade level. After this, they are free to drop-out, and many of them do so. Needless to say, out of the already disadvantaged youths that do continue their education, even fewer continue on for a higher education at the university level.
The idea for this project came to me after the completion of a mentoring project conducted in 2008 that catered to the local youth, especially children staying in local orphanages.
I realized that if we could find a way to help these young people to be better prepared for this step out of the orphanages, we could prevent an increase in the number of homeless people and young families living in improper housing conditions. In my opinion, this was a new way to increase our efforts to build sustainable communities and to break the cycle of poverty.
Preparing the young orphans for a normal life after they reach 18 years of age must start with improving their skills in order to be able to obtain a job and secure an income that can provide them with a home and normal living conditions.
For this reason, the most important goal of our project was to train young people from a local orphanage in order to acquire the skills that could possibly help them to find a job in the construction field by involving them in the actual build process on the Habitat for Humanity construction site and at the same time teaching them some theoretical knowledge.
The construction job market was on the rise in Romania with numerous civic works being completed in many cities, and the positions could not be filled quickly enough.
Our construction/training site was in a small village, 15 km east of Pitesti called Oarja. In the three years that Habitat for Humanity was working at this site, 46 families received housing or renovations. We have seen approximately 3,000 Romanian volunteers and roughly 2,000 international volunteers come through this construction site. With only a small percentage of these volunteers having any formal construction expertise my staff on the construction site developed an extensive experience on how to teach beginners. On the other side, we were building two new blocks of apartments at that moment so we had an ample amount of jobs to do inside and out in order to consider the blocks finished and ready for habitation. All of these elements were very good bases to start our project.
The project was named “New Skills New Opportunities” and we succeeded to obtain a grant from Peace Corps in order to supplement our resources and to be able to support the training of 30 young orphans, with ages between 16 and 18 years.
In addition, I was planning on doing a future similar project on a much larger scale using European Union funding. The purpose for the completion of this smaller scale pilot project was to make the next training program more efficient and easier to put into operation, as well as aiding in the grant submission to the EU for funds.
- Provide basic construction skills to young orphans in the Pitesti and surrounding areas;
- Have those individuals use their new skills to find a job;
- Have those individuals use their new jobs to provide a better lifestyle for themselves and for their future families;
- To involve other locals and youth in the betterment of their own community;
- Strengthen local partnerships between community businesses, Habitat for Humanity and local authorities;
- Focus on the empowerment of the individual to take an active role in his or her future;
- Continue organizing similar projects on a grander scale.
- Build comprehensive construction training manuals;
- Actively promote and advertise this opportunity to the youth residents of Pitesti and the surrounding areas orphanages;
- Have individuals apply for a spot in the project;
- Strengthen local partnerships between community businesses, Habitat for Humanity and local authorities by involving them in this project and sharing resources.
The “New Skills New Opportunities” project was conducted in a six months period and ended successfully with 30 young orphans passing their final theoretical and practical exams and receiving a certificate from Habitat for Humanity. Seven of them managed to obtain a job in construction companies during the training period and another 14 got jobs in the next two months after completion of the training.