We have a few stories that will melt your heart.
ILP has programs sprinkled all over the world — and while there are so many things every volunteer will experience (no matter where they are serving), our Romania program is just a bit different. Instead of teaching, volunteers in this location will be in the orphanage program here, loving the kids, spending crucial time with children with a range of disabilities, and helping others progress and adjust to a more home-like setting. There are many (many) ways to help in this location in particular.
Wondering about what this ILP program is like?
Learn more about what volunteering in an orphanage program is all about.
The children you’re working with range in ages and in health and ability. Some are completely bedridden and many have severe disabilities. Others need your encouragement and attention to do basic things like learning how to walk and play.
Most volunteers know that they will be making a difference in the children's lives but often what volunteers may not realize is how much the kids will affect their own lives and teach them many lessons in return. While we hear dozens of stories every semester, we're going to highlight some stories and memories from just a few volunteers to help give you a glimpse into this very special program:
A Few About The Kids
"A few weeks after I arrived, my room ... received a brother and sister. They were young and came from a terrible situation. The brother was very protective of his sister and the sister was very shy. Through my time there, being with them, loving them, helping them learn boundaries, how to interact with others, but most importantly — how to trust others and understand that it is okay to be a child — was one of the most impactful experiences I have had in my life.
I learned so many lessons from those two precious children and loved them as my own. Those goodbyes tore me apart. The brother learned to trust me to take care of them. He would also make sure he knew where I was at all times and would trust that I could take care of his sister. His sister opened up and began talking to me. While I didn't understand what she was saying, she knew I loved her. If I could have taken them home with me, I would have. It was amazing to see what true love and nurturing can do for a child. That is why we go. To see demeanors change, and to watch them grow, and for them to understand their worth."
"I remember one day I was helping feed the kids lunch, and the little boy used a spoon by himself for the first time. We were sooo excited. Kinda seems ridiculous that we were so excited, but we had been working on this for a couple of months now. "
"Probably my favorite thing that I did was teach the kids sign language for 'I love you' - I would put my hand up and then tap each finger for each syllable so 'te, iu, besc' and eventually they started to do it back and alllll the time. Every time I left they would give me big hugs and if they couldn't speak they would still try to do sign language. It made my heart so happy. It was honestly devastating leaving the last morning because I knew that I would never see them again but I'm grateful that my last image of them is them smiling, yelling my name, and saying "I love you" any way they could. "
"The only child in my section of the orphanage that was old enough to talk and hold conversation was 6-year-old, and he was my best friend. This boy would teach me words in Romanian and I would teach him words in English. All the time, I would say "I love you" in English. One day, one of the orphanage employees that spoke English explained what 'I love you' meant to this little boy. He then ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug while saying 'Cassi! I LOVE YOU!' It was so precious and tender, and totally made me cry."
"One of the little boys in the orphanage (he was about 3) and I had a special little bond. We would play so hard, and then collapse on the ground. Every time we collapsed, he would look at me and poke me in the nose. It was so dang cute! About halfway through the semester, he got transferred to another section of the orphanage, so I didn't get to see him as often. Around the end of the semester, I was able to go play with him again — at one point, we both ended up laying on the ground and he poked me in the nose! I was so excited that he remembered me and our little thing."
Some Special Memories
"I remember one time there was a little girl who I adored, who went to the hospital for a few days. I was so worried because she had a heart defect. I showed up one morning at the orphanage and I was having a pretty hard day. When I walked in, there she was, and she ran and jumped into my arms. It was the sweetest experience. She was telling me all about her time at the hospital and wouldn't let go. I needed her at that moment and I knew that she needed me. I will forever cherish this memory."
"Some of my favorite moments with the kids happened while we were playing outside in the sandbox or taking walks around the apartment complexes. I loved getting the kids all bundled up and turning them into marshmallows. We would walk around and point at different things like the cats and dogs, the flowers, and play on the swings and the slides. I also loved when we would turn on music and have little dance parties, especially because the kids' little dances were so precious."
"I once watched a little boy become frustrated that he couldn't fit all of the sticks on the ground in his tiny hands. It was hilarious and so sweet."
About The Experience
“I have learned so much about service and how much we are blessed as we serve others. I have tickled the children and watched them giggle, held their hands when they needed to know they weren't alone, dabbed their mouths when they spit up, saw them relax as I sang to them, and felt their love each and every day.
"I came to Romania in hopes that I could make a difference in the lives of these little orphans and I'm seeing that they are the ones who have so greatly impacted me. They will never know how much they have affected me. Their joy is a lesson to me that no matter what our circumstances, no matter what trials we may be experiencing, we can choose to be happy.”
"I loved my semester. While traveling was amazing, it began to feel like a chore. I wanted nothing more than to be with my kids, to the point where I wanted to stay home from trips. I especially loved going to the hospital- because it was a different experience every time. Some of those kids were left there for nothing and had nothing. Even a few minutes with them meant the world.
The sweet kids of Romania taught me so much. I learned how to love, forgive, understand, and be positive. Those kids knew more hardship than I ever will- and were truly angels on this earth. So kind, sweet, and perfect. They were in my life when I needed them and I will forever hold them close to my heart. I still think about them every day and it's been 4 years. I loved my time with them, my group, learning the culture and language, and getting to know myself while doing something out of my comfort zone. We were there to give love, help them grow, learn, and develop- and yet, they did the same for me. "
We have more info on what it's actually like to volunteer in the Romania orphanage program if you'd like to read more!
Are you ready for your own life changing adventure?
There are so many ways to help in this particular program, and we're looking for volunteers who want to help with all the small things — laughs when you pull out your sticker book, singing until your kids crack a smile, and more. If you’re excited to give back with your time, attention, and love through these acts of service, Romania’s the spot for you.