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Being a volunteer in Romania

April 23, 2014 | In: ,

Dec2013_Events_EuropeDirect 034

by Adriana H

Volunteering is a concept that still isn’t imbedded in Romanian culture, which is why people are rather reluctant when it comes to working for free in order to help others or the community they live in. They don’t see anything beneficial in it. People tend to see only the downside of the work as a volunteer and don’t take into consideration that this kind of work also has good parts.

Frankly, I myself was a little skeptical at first and I knew next to nothing about volunteering when I decided to spend part of my free time teaching English and Spanish at Student Plus Foundation. When I went there to ask if they needed volunteer teachers I didn’t expect what was to come, because this experience made me change the way in which I perceived life in general and the society I lived in. You’re probably asking yourself what stood behind this change in perception. Well, the answer is quite simple and it involves only two things: my students, who were all senior citizens, hence the name of the program, Senior Academy, and my acquaintances.
When I first started teaching, I believed that I was the only one doing the teaching. Nevertheless, by the end of the first module I realized that my students were also my teachers. Contrary to the popular believe, you still have a lot of things to learn from those who have retired from the work force. I say this because here, in Romania, most of the younger and middle aged people believe that your life has ended once you’ve retired. However, they couldn’t be more mistaken. I can say that I’ve learned a lot of this from them. For instance, that you are an important member of the society regardless of your age and that you’re life hasn’t ended after you’ve retired, the only thing that ends is a chapter of your life. They have shown me that you can still enjoy life as much as ever and do whatever you want.
As for the reaction of my acquaintances, I can only say that I was surprised and not in a good way. From the first day I became a volunteer teacher, I kept hearing over and over again things like: “If I were you, I wouldn’t get out of bed without being paid.” or “I really don’t understand you. You should try to find a part time job instead of working for free. There really are no benefits in what you’re doing. It’s a complete waste of time.” At first I didn’t know what to make of this, but then I said to myself that this was my decision and that I shouldn’t let others influence it. For the most part I kept ignoring this type of comments, which surprisingly came to an end after they’ve probably gotten used to the idea of me being a volunteer.
As a whole, I can say that the thing that stuck most with me is that you have to respect retired people, because they are still an important part of our society. Otherwise, how can you expect to be respected as a person when you retire, if you do not respect your predecessors?

Timisoara, april 2014

Mesajele sunt inchise.