Volunteer stories : Rosemary P., Social Worker in Romania
Psychology, Sociology, Learning Support, Social Sciences (Open University) and Inclusive Education (Open University)
Life experience with working with children including being a foster parent and working as a nanny. Ten years working in a comprehensive school as a Learning Support Assistant with children with Special Needs. Broad experience of Autism.
Rosemary travelled to Romania for 3months, using her skills and experience in social care to help at a hospital and foster home in a disadvantaged area. This is what she had to say about the project:
"Romania had been in my head since the revolution but I didn't actually imagine I would ever go there. When I decided to retire from my job as a teaching assistant, specialising in special needs, I found myself on the internet searching for voluntary work with children in Romania. Before I knew it, I had booked up to go for 3 months. I am 61 and had never been on a plane before! My whole experience in Romania was amazing. I have found it difficult to settle down to a quiet life in a tiny English village. I will definitely return whenever I can."
The Project Partner
Laura Benedek is the psychologist from Child's protection in charge of the Tarlungeni Complex. She worked together with Rosie at Lizuca and Patrocle with children who have light and severe disabilities. Laura made a profile of each child to help Rosie and other volunteers to know what their psychological and physical level was. Rosie came up with ideas of games and activities to develop their abilities and put them into practice. Laura helped Rosie accommodate and get close to the children by explaining their background to her. Laura's role was to test and diagnose each child and then make a development plan for each and offer counseling.
Role of the Volunteer
Rosemary’s role at the foster home included the following:
- Using her experience of social work to take individual 30 minute sessions with children with Special Needs including Autism, hyperactivity, hearing and speech loss.
- Taking on non-social work related activities such as purchasing equipment for the foster home.
- Spending time with teenage mothers who lacked social development due to their young age, teaching them to rediscover play and interact with their children.
Benefits to the community
The work performed by Dani at the foster home over the years and Rosemary’s added help have combined to provide the following benefits to the local community:
- The combined effect of paying greater attention to the children and working with the mothers stimulated conversation and communication, helping to improve their social skills and quality of life.
- Simply by taking some of the pressure away from the young mothers and encouraging them to laugh and smile, they became more confident as parents, which will directly improve the lives of their children in the future.
- The chance of parents and children becoming involved in crime was greatly reduced because they felt part of a large family and were encouraged to act responsibly.
- The children were provided with life skills that could be used in the future outside the home and in the community.
While Rosemary was in Romania she made long lasting friendships with both local Romanian people and volunteers from all over the world. Through meeting volunteers working on different projects she was introduced to a wide variety of Romanian people and had the chance to go walking with them, eat meals together and learn about their culture and history. She struck a bond with a Romanian woman called Cristina who works at the Sacele Hospital, regularly sharing traditional meals at her home and telling her all about her life back in the UK. Rosemary’s host family took good care of her, providing her with three meals a day and working hard to help her acclimatise to life in a developing country.
Forming relationships with the staff at the foster home proved to be much more problematic. She felt that their negative experience of a communist past meant that they struggled to understand her motivation as a volunteer. Many of the staff were naturally suspicious of volunteers, but she gradually got to know some of the women who spoke a little English. Encouragingly, by the time she had to leave and return home to the UK, even the women who had been stone-faced at her arrival were in tears. This perfectly demonstrates how with hard work, determination and a caring outlook, the language barrier can be broken down and people become much more trusting and appreciative.
One area in which Rosemary had no trouble with forming relationships was with the young children at the foster home. Every day when she walked through the door they would greet her with a chorus of shouts and jumped up and down in unison. It was through working with the children that her skills and personality were able to really shine through and she understandably struggled to say goodbye at the end of her three month stay.
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