I had the pleasure to be part of a group of students who travelled to Romania. As we were all scientist we hoped to work with the charity FAST (Foundation for Social Assistance and Youth) to show children the joys of science. Before travelling I had no idea what to expect. I haven’t really travelled so this was going to be an exciting experience either way. When arriving in Romania I wish I had known about how hot it would be. As someone who has lived in Scotland for the last decade, the cloudless sunny skies were quite a shock.
FAST is filled with a wonderful bunch of people who act like a large family (though in some cases they were actually related!), and are the main reason why the trip was so enjoyable. FAST was created by Ema and Daniel who were both frustrated about the conditions some groups of people had to live with. They found their life call; to help the disadvantaged in Romania. Their organisation grew and has now become something they definitely should be proud of. Their work with families and children of the disadvantaged Rroma communities has not only given an access to education and better quality of life but also generated a sense of hope and confidence in the community.
While there I learned a great deal of the discrimination that the Rroma community has seen in the past and still today. I learned how whole communities have been neglected and are the most affected by poverty and social exclusion. It seems bizarre that a group of people who make up 25% of the population in the county are cut off from the local economy and education systems.
Volunteering with FAST included some physical work but perhaps more importantly engaging with the young people. It was clear that the most impact FAST made was through the projects where children could play and enjoy a hot meal or where mothers could relax with their toddlers or the Education Centre where the children went when not at school.
In FAST’s Education Centre we worked with children teaching them the science behind many fun experiments. Of course we had to end the trip with a bang, so a rocket filled with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda worked perfectly (most of the time). Ema and Daniel were always keen to have our input. They expressed how they wanted to focus more on their education projects and how they wanted to turn a room in the Education Centre into a science room. As a massive science nerd I approved.
By travelling to Romania and volunteering with FAST, I could see the great effect that their work had on the community. It was great to know that Ema and Daniel didn’t want to stop there and I truly wish them and the others at FAST for a happy and successful future. If you’re ever in Romania I recommend getting in touch.