Favorite New Skills New Opportunities

New SkillsThe main focus of this project was to aid in the implementation of an on-site basic construction training program that would help its participants find better employment.

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.New Skills | Construction Clases

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.

New Skills | Construction SiteLong-term Goals

  • 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.

Short-term Goals

  • 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;New Skills | Certificate
  • 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.

A Safe and Colorful Place to Play

Playground Oarja RomaniaIn the Habitat Community in the village of Oarja there are now over 100 children living. They did not have a safe place to play since the area is far from the city and is near a busy road. After seeing the children playing in the street while cars sped by, we knew something had to be done.
We found a nice spot as far away from the road as possible for added safety and with help from the HabiTeen (Habitat for Humanity Pitesti Youth Organization) and a team of international volunteers we built a very colorful playground for the children. Thanks to our generous donors the playground has a fence, swing set, monkey bars and a seesaw and is painted with the brightest paint we could find.

Our young HabiTeens were even able to plant new trees donated by the Arges County Forest Authority to hopefully one day give the children some shade. All the children learned how to care for their new trees and loved the training on how to water them. They were very happy to be part of helping their playground prosper. Even before the paint was dry, the children were antsy to get into their new space. They could hardly wait overnight before playing.Playground Habitat Community

Elena, a Habitat for Humanity partner family with a 9 year old son was telling me, “I am so thankful for a safe place for Ionut to play now. Since he has a learning disability I must watch him every second while he is playing outside. Now he is so distracted by the playground that I am able to let him play freely. He doesn’t leave the yard now because he is always busy swinging or playing games with the other children.”

Favorite Mentoring Project

Mentoring ProjectThere 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.Mentor & mentee
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.

Short-term Goals:

• 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.

Diploma ceremony Mentoring ProjectMentoring 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.

Favorite Mentoring – The Pilot Project

Mentoring Group PictureIn 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.

For this project, I managed to establish partnerships with University of Pitesti (The Department of Social Work), Arges County Child Protection Authority, Pitesti City Hall and a local orphanage.

Mentoring Trainings

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.

Mentoring Day at the ParkMentoring Zoo Play

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!

Mentoring Face PaintingMentoring Visit to the Zoo

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.

Favorite Empowering Romanian Youth

Empowering YouthDuring the communist regime in Romania, the youth were one of the main targets of the political propaganda and the Romanian Communist Party created three main youth organizations at the national level with local branches everywhere in the country. The Homeland Hawks (Soimii Patriei) organization was for the children up to school age, The Pioneers (Pionierii) from the first grade to 14 years of age and finally The Communist Youth Association (Uniunea Tineretului Comunist) was the first step to become a member of the Romanian Communist Party.
In this way, from the moment that you were entering kindergarten, the Party was enrolling you in the system without asking if you wanted that or not.
On the good part, and excluding the political propaganda, all of these organizations were educating the Romanian youth about civic engagement and were giving them a feeling of empowerment.
After the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, at the beginning of 1990, all these youth organizations disappeared from Romania and more than two decades later are still quasi non-existent.

In my work at Habitat for Humanity, I noticed that the Romanian youth was willing to help the community and was searching for ways to do this but there was no structured way to give them this opportunity. This was the beginning of HabiTeen, the youth organization of Habitat for Humanity Pitesti.

Romanian Youth EmpowermentIn 2006, I took the initiative to create the HabiTeen youth organization that had a boost in membership in 2007 with the help of Habitat for Humanity Pitesti staff and the volunteers from local high schools and university students. Youth interested in volunteering and helping their community realize how much fun volunteering can be and began participating in projects with Habitat for Humanity Pitesti.
The first project that the HabiTeen did was to help spread the word about Habitat for Humanity in downtown Pitesti on Women’s Day in March 2007. The youth handed out flowers to women, balloons to children and pins with the Habitat for Humanity logo to everyone. The day was very successful with people showing their support to our local organization. A few families even learned about what Habitat for Humanity does and applied to volunteer with us on the construction site to help other people in need of housing.
Encouraged by this overwhelming response, the HabiTeen youth got together and decided to clean a local park. In order to do this they organized themselves and convinced the city hall to donate gloves and garbage bags. After working an entire Saturday morning filling over 30 garbage bags with paper, plastic bottles and cans they were very happy when the local park goers congratulated and thanked them for their hard work. They took pride in telling people about HabiTeen and Habitat for Humanity work.
HabiTeen Campaign on Pitesti City streetsIn the next months, the youth organization was growing fast and they organized many other activities from a fundraising campaign in the Pitesti city downtown to volunteer work at the Habitat for Humanity construction site in Oarja, Arges County.
After the HabiTeens got their momentum there was no stopping them from participating in a larger scale project. At Habitat for Humanity, we wanted to do a longer term project to help children of Habitat for Humanity partner families and children from a local orphanage. This project was to show the community the importance of having a positive mentor for disadvantaged children.
The HabiTeens all signed up to be mentors and were excited at the prospect of mentoring a child to show joy and encouragement to. They took the children out for ice cream, played in the park and helped them with their homework. They also took the children on group activities to the zoo and to a local park for a celebration dedicated to the children. This project was so successful and had such positive feedback that Habitat for Humanity Pitesti decided to continue with another Mentoring project on a larger scale and over a longer period of time.

You can read all about this project on the Mentoring page.