Just because you’re not interested in teaching English doesn’t mean you can’t volunteer with ILP. We actually have a program where you won’t be teaching at all.
If you think everything about International Language Programs sounds perfect for you (except for the teaching part) this blog post is for you! You can still volunteer, make a difference and do some traveling without needing to teach.
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In all of our other countries and programs, volunteers will be in the classroom part time, teaching play-like lessons to help the kids learn English naturally. Teaching is fun, but challenging — energy levels are high and the kiddos have a short attention span. Although it's hard work, you get the hang of it and there's no experience needed. But if you're not into teaching English but still want to make a difference and go abroad, our humanitarian program in Europe is perfect for you.
Keep reading to learn all about the orphanage program in Romania.
- Why Won't I Be Teaching?
How Will I Be Making A Difference?
How Does The Foster Care + Adoption System Work In Romania?
Hear From A Few Volunteers
Why Won't I Be Teaching?
While ILP is focused on teaching English to children abroad, we have a special little exception in Romania. The orphanage program in Romania actually got started with Brigham Young University, who was sending college-aged kids there to help the children in a local orphanage. But when BYU decided to discontinue the program, some students came to ILP and asked if we would be able to take on the program to continue helping the kids in Romania.
The kids in Romania in this program have a range of abilities: some are completely bedridden and need someone to sing to them and help stretch their tired legs. Others are looking for help with basic milestones, like learning to walk or share their toys. We're so glad Romania is one of our Humanitarian Programs and are able to offer a semester abroad where volunteers can make a difference outside of a classroom.
Even though you won't be teaching English, the structure of the program is the same — volunteers in Romania spend about a half day on volunteering (up to 4 hours of direct interaction with the kids, plus transportation, and clean up), with free time, weekends off, and vacation time. Just how you are helping is a little bit different.
How Will I Be Making A Difference?
You'll be helping in so many ways. There's a need for volunteers in a few different sections of the orphanage program, but no matter where you will be serving, you'll be helping kids with a variety of abilities — there are children to snuggle and give attention to. Some kids can’t walk without assistance or can’t leave their bed so you’re there to hold their hands, listen to music with them and help the kids stretch and move around. All the kids here are disabled and have their basic needs met, there just isn't a large enough staff to give that crucial one-on-one time. That's where you come in.
Several kids are living in an apartment setting, which is a huge adjustment. There's a bit more independence and need to learn some basic home skills that you are there to help with. The children here have been able to overcome some difficulties and just need some more help following a routine and managing some circumstances. This apartment part of the orphanage program lets you get a glimpse into what this program is all about — helping children learn, develop and grow. You’ll be helping in seemingly small ways, with things like helping kids hold a toothbrush, twist a doorknob, learn to share their toys, handle emotions during a tantrum, and other tasks, along with providing lots of cuddles and attention.
All fall under the same orphanage organization that ILP has been working with for years. We have lots more detail about volunteering in an orphanage here.
How Is This System Working In Romania?
How this whole process works in Romania is pretty closely related to how you'll be making a difference on your semester with ILP. It's important to understand a little history then (and now) which contributes to system you'll be helping in.
The orphanage epidemic in Romania was started by the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauçescu, who was president of Romania between1965 to 1989. He campaigned to increase the population of the country, banning contraception and financially encouraged families to have large families. However, thousands of children were abandoned or were neglected, unable to be cared for by their families. The orphanages in this country were flooded with unwanted children, something the Romanian government now wants to change.
Now, Romania is shifting from orphanages to foster care systems, where orphans are instead placed in apartments or care centers which serve kind of like a half-way house to help the children get even more prepared for living with a foster family. In the apartments, our volunteers are there to help provide the love and attention each of the kids crave.
The children ILP volunteers will be helping are most likely not up for adoption. While some of the children you are volunteering with are orphans, some children here have parents who are unable (financially or otherwise) to provide to intense care required by mental or physical demands of their child. The children you work with are all disabled and hugely benefit from your attention, love, and interaction. Having these apartments for these children means they can still receive the care they need even with the elimination of the orphanages in Romania.
Hear From A Few Volunteers
As you might have guessed, being able to care so personally for these kids can make quite the impact. Even though the ways you are helping may seem small (singing lullabies, stretching tired arms, helping kids share their toys, finally seeing one of your kids smile and laugh) they are hugely impactful. Read in detail about a few more personal experiences, like Madeline's semester or why Katie chose to volunteer in Romania to get an idea.
Or take a peek at what our current volunteers are up to on the #ilpRomania Instagram tag. You may run into a few quotes like this one, from a past volunteer, Ashley.
Ready to volunteer at a Romanian orphanage?
You'll be set up with a group of volunteers to volunteer with, live with, and explore with, plus have weekends off + vacation days to explore Romania (and all the other countries on your European bucket list). Come join to help with in our Romania Orphanage Program!