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Thursday, July 9, 2009

On to Transylvania

This was my second trip thru VFP, in 2004, to Transylvania. As I said previously, it is overwhelming to browse through the project listings, so numerous, in so many parts of the world, doing so many kinds of things.

This time, I made my choice somewhat frivolously. It was tremendously appealing, I will admit it, to be able to tell people I was going to Transylvania. Beyond that, though, I realized my only image of Transylvania was of the infamous count.Obviously, there was more to the country. (I wasn't even sure which country it was part of.) Romania, I soon realized.

The description of the project was that we'd be working in an orphanage. The Romanian orphanages had been infamous for their lack of stimulation of the babies. The hearts of people around the world had gone out to those children several years back. Some of my fellow volunteers had signed up on the basis of this knowledge. One, the other American beside myself, was a young woman who had just graduated from college. This trip had been her parents' graduation gift to her, one that she had been planning for several years.

Everychild, however, the agency where we'd be working, turned out not to be an orphanage at all. It was more of a drop in childrens' program, to which some kids came regularly, and others more sporadically. This proved to be extremely frustrating for many of the volunteers. Several, a group of three friends from France, decided to leave. I had not been as invested in the idea of working in an orphanage, and so was not as dissappointed. The worst part was that the agency director, with whom we met to discuss the situation, glossed over our concerns. He said the children here were actually more needy than the kids in orphanages, who were now very well taken care of. His dissembling did not improve the situation. And although he promised to contact an orphanage and arrange for us to work extra hours there, he never followed through.

Nevertheless, the kids and the staff at Everychild were delightful. The director, whose mother had died young, worked on a volunteer basis herself, and supported herself by selling Avon products.

Every morning we went to a nearby park and played games. In the afternoons we organized ourselves into several "clubs" among which the kids could choose. There was the magic club, the dance club(whose teacher, a medical student from Wales, taught the kids a routine from Grease (I swear she was an Olivia Newton-John look-alike) a juggling group, and mine, the drumming club. We collected cardboard boxes, plastic bottles which we filled with stones, trash cans, and more. Each afternoon we sat in our drum circle, three volunteers and an ever changing group of children, and just played with rhythms. After a few days, our drumming coalesced into the rhythm of We Will Rock You. Not only was it familiar to all the kids and volunteers, but one of the volunteers, from Romania, knew all the words. So every afternoon we all drummed and sang, enjoying ourselves immensely.

On our last day, all the groups performed for each other and the whole staff of the center. And boy, did we rock!

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