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15 adolescents from Mioveni have taught the students from three neighboring communes how they can improve the community and themselves, by doing volunteer work

15 adolescents from Mioveni have taught the students from three neighboring communes how they can improve the community and themselves, by doing volunteer work.

The teenagers from Argeș involved in The Volunteers’ Caravan project have had a full schedule during the last semester of last year. For over a week, at the end of the summer vacation, they gathered in a room of the House of Culture and made over 200 cockades and magazine boats, for the children about to graduate from 1st grade, and, two days before the school start, they spread them on the desks. They have organized play hours for the smaller children in their communities. With the help of several art school students, they painted the walls next to the Theoretical High School “Iulia Zamfirescu”. “Now everybody goes to take a selfie there,” says one of the boys. At the end of 2015, they organized a charity show combining music, theater and dance, and with the money gained from selling tickets, they helped impoverished families from their localities.

The students from TEAM Mioveni and the organizer of the project were used to volunteering, but had never been involved in such diverse activities, in only a few months. TEAM Mioveni is a branch of the organization TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) from Constanța, created in 2014 by Daniella Crețu, a history teacher, and other members of the teaching staff, for the purpose of encouraging and developing volunteering among the youngsters. The TEAM volunteers are mostly known around their city for often organizing play hours for children, in parks.
TEAM Mioveni has over 100 members and many feel that the experience has changed them radically. Radu Jipa is 15 and his nickname within the group is Zebra, partially because he only dresses in black and white. “Before, I was an antisocial person,” he says“I didn’t speak to anyone, I was very shy. I wasn’t much of a team player, I felt a team would just drag me behind and that I was better off alone, that it was better to be responsible for everything.” Antonia Epecu, who’s 17, also preferred to be by herself. “I used to go in my corner on purpose, I just felt better knowing I had no contact with those around me. I had no pleasure in talking to the others, first of all because I was not used to talking to new people.” She joined TEAM almost involuntarily. Several volunteers proposed to take pictures during the activities, but they almost immediately involved her in a game. One week later, they told her she was registered at the initiation class. Antonia went, she enjoyed it, and now that her advance class is also finished, she’s a trainers’ assistant. She’s passionate about public speaking and wishes to travel intensely, so she could get to know as many new people as possible.

Last year, the members of TEAM Mioveni found out about the chance to apply for funding from the Foundations PACT and Vodafone Romania. They decided to focus on promoting volunteer work in school communities near the city, especially the middle schools from the communes Țițești, Dîrmănești and Conțești-Davidești, in order to make involvement more popular.

The project began with a 5 day camp at 2 Mai, which has provided the chance to know and learn from each other. For some of the village kids, this was the first time they had ever seen the sea. “I thought they became more mature and a bit braver, all of a sudden,” claims Roxana Dorobanțu, the principle of the school in Țițești, about the time of return. “The fact that they left without their parents for the first time and were able to see the world through their own eyes made them more confident, more determined.”

In the beginning, children in the communes were shy or somehow skeptical towards the games and activities proposed by the TEAM members, but, just as it happened for Radu and Antonia, it wasn’t long before they became enthusiastic about what was happening. Alexandru Tănase, from Davidești, was graduating from 8th grade when the project was initiated. “I have learned to become more involved in a team,” he says. “I used to be very individualistic in everything I did.” George Cioboată, one of the leaders of TEAM Mioveni, also has the example of Ovidiu, his cousin from Dîrmănești, who’s now in high school. If, before, he would have rather spent time on his computer, now, following the summer camp and activities, Ovidiu has become very sociable. “At the end of the camp, he had started to dance,” Antonia says, “to talk to other children, and I was all like: «Wow, is this Ovidiu, talking to people?»”
The activities planned by the Caravan were not only organized in Mioveni, but also in the communes. In Dîrmănești, volunteers yelled on the streets “Come to Sumedru’s fire!”, just as it was done in the old days, inviting people to a fire in the fields, for Saint Dumitru. The students from Davidești and Conțești painted letters for organizing the books from school library and made bookmarks for children from elementary school. The principal of the school in Davidești feels that the children have not only become more responsible and solidary towards those around them, but also that their parents now have a better understanding of the purpose of volunteering, such as environmental actions.

Another shift in attitude, Radu thinks, was achieved in Țițești, where many students are of the Roma ethnicity. “Those who joined our camp have begun to communicate more with the Roma students, which makes me very glad. When I went to the play hour, I noticed a major difference: it no longer matter if I’m Romanian and you’re Roma.”
Since the end of January, when the project was ended, the 30 volunteers from the Caravan kept in touch and some of them continue to participate to activities, together, in Mioveni. In the schools that they attend, they have become an example for other colleagues, which made them also join TEAM.  “If I could define this endeavor in words,” says Roxana Dorobanțu, “I think the words would be friendship, solidarity. They have befriended older children and it’s important to join enthusiastically a project with unknown people.”

For Daniella Crețu, such projects also contribute to the satisfaction of having contributed to the students’ transformation, through a method other than teaching. “I realize that very good things can be done through volunteering,” he says. “That we must only see this potential, so that it can reach the places where it is needed. I realized the fact that we can develop much vaster projects.”

This material was drafted in a partnership with Decât o Revistă, within the founding round Involved in my community, conducted by the Foundation Vodafone Romania and the PACT Foundation. You can find more stories on involvement on the platform, developed by the PACT Foundation.

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