My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for Romanian Children's Relief, Reston, VA, USA
As a child, I did not have the benefit of an intact family, and always felt keenly the lack of a safe and loving home. I became a teacher and tried to "be there" for my students, but wondered if my help and support during the hour of high school I was able to interact with each youngster was quite enough. I was looking for a more hands on way to show my concern for the children of the world. After a Fulbright study tour of Bulgaria and Romania I came to Boston to teach, and decided to find a nonprofit working to alleviate some of the suffering I witnessed among the children in orphanages in Eastern Europe. I discovered that the story about the AIDS babies of Romania was announced first by a Boston photographer, and that he and his friends had started a nonprofit called "Romanian Children's Relief" which had been making huge inroads creating a Child Life program in Alfred Rusescu hospital in Bucharest. I went to see the executive director (no one on the board is on salary) and after many conversations, the agency agreed to let me take some high school students to work in their programs during our summer break. It was a huge undertaking--it was far away and the needs of these children felt overwhelming at first. What should we take for them? What kind of work could my students perform that would help, and would be appropriate? Would we be "in the way" or useful? Would we be so much work for the caregivers that it would only be a one-shot event? We have been returning there every year since 1998. The agency met us with caring and support at every juncture, and over time, we have become more independent as we plan our work visits. Other schools have joined our efforts, both high school and college students now visit the Bucharest site and their newer outpost in Bistrita. We hold and play with little babies who are developmentally delayed due to abandonment or neglect by their families. Poverty adds nutritional challenges to the lives of these babies. In the care of RCR workers and visitors, these children get the one on one attention that helps them grow. Many of the same caregivers we met that first year in Orphanage #1 in Bucharest, are still lovingly providing supportive care, stimulating play, and working to find foster care in country for these abandoned babies, many of whom are special needs cases. They are tireless, warm, knowledgable, and faithful. My students learn a myriad of parenting skills from them, as well as the virtue of what can be accomplished when the right motives and respectful interaction with a country's issues are central to one's efforts. Over time, RCR has changed, as the relationship with the Romanians deepened. The name is now "Fundatia Innocenti" demonstrating the infusion of Romanian energy, money, and infrastructure. Keeping children in family structures has now become paramount, so we can now do "home visits" to foster care homes as well as work in hospitals, schools, and group homes. Every time we return on our annual visits we are greeted as old friends, given meaningful work to accomplish with the children, and given updated information as to where our resources have been used most recently. Over a hundred student volunteers have traveled with me and my colleagues under the auspices of this wonderful charity, (and this is just from my one school!) We are kept abreast of the challenges and accomplishments of each year's work, and how the babies we have worked with have fared over the years. Some of the stories are sad; many are triumphs of spirit and dedication. Working with RCR has changed my own life in many ways, giving me a focus and direction for my interest in making a difference. They have trusted me, supported my work with students, helped me understand another culture, and given me hope that if one chooses a place in the world to concentrate on, I can see great changes if I am faithful to their mission. Romania is no longer a hopeless, helpless, grim sentence for tiny innocent kids. Americans cared, and learned to partner with Romanians who cared, and now there is hope. I have been privileged to be a small part of this agency's brilliant, purposeful work on behalf of the world's children, and I have been blessed by their willingness to work with what I could give as a volunteer. I will continue to work for them as long as I can be of use.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
watching the program grow to meet the needs of all kinds of children and families. they have altered their input as the needs of their clientele emerged. they have continued faithfully with their mission to aid the children of the country, and have used their resources wisely. i see the results of their work every year when i return.
Would you volunteer for this group again?
For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?
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Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)
i have had the chance to be for another child what caregivers did for me when i was orphaned. there is no more profound experience in my life than to be able to help an abandoned child, and RCR does this every day.
How did this volunteer experience make you feel?