This summer, along with my team from Engineers Without Borders Edinburgh, I headed to Sacele, Brasov in Romania to work with a local charity, FAST Romania. FAST works primarily with families from marginalised Rroma communities in Brasov County, who are discriminated against in Romania. FAST aims to improve the quality of life for the disadvantaged families of the Rroma ethnic group, as well as to increase access to education for children living in these rural, marginalised areas of the country.
As an aspiring teacher, I truly believed that education is incredibly important, especially in disadvantaged communities. I wanted to be part of the FAST’s vision of defeating poverty through education, and I was very interested in this project as I wanted to gain a different teaching experience by teaching in a different country. I believe that this volunteering opportunity will further develop my passion for teaching and push me out of my comfort zone.
Before we left for Romania, we were mostly worried about our inadequacy to help out in FAST, as we had no prior experience in construction, and neither were we fluent in Romanian, which was an obstacle when communicating and teaching the students. However, after we arrived, we found out that the staff at FAST were extremely patient and helpful, and was never hesitant to guide us during our work.
1) Better Homes Project
We provided our help in the building and maintenance of houses, with running water and electricity, for the Rroma community in Tarlungeni. We helped to build septic tanks in a few houses, as well as provide maintenance to others.
A common sight:
Unable to afford cars or trucks, the Roma use horses as means of transportation.
In the background, those houses with red roofs are built by the FAST for the community.
2) Mission House Project
This project is a half-day care for the children in the village, providing a safe place for them to play games and listen to bible stories. The mission house also provides hot food for these children, who often do not have the luxury at home.
Tucking into their hot lunch!
3) Education Project
Education defeats poverty: this project aims to help underprivileged children build fundamental educational abilities for school and social inclusion. We organized and held multiple science and engineering workshops for the Children at the education house. Many of the Roma students fall very far behind in school due to absence from school and their situation at home. We help them with basic math and literacy skills in the education house. FAST believes that education defeats poverty, and aims to help them break out of the cycle by providing a safe environment for them to learn and grow.
We carried out various workshops that were designed by Engineers Without Borders Edinburgh, including workshops on water filtration, bridge building, pressure. These workshops aim to facilitate development by encouraging scientific and technical growth.
The biggest difficulty we faced was the language barrier. We required a translator in the classroom at all times, because the students did not understand English. However, despite these barriers, the children still tremendously enjoyed the hands-on and experiential learning.
At the end of my two weeks at FAST, I’m not very certain if we left a long-term impact on the community. However, I do believe that whatever we did are small footsteps in FAST’s bigger vision of aiding and integrating the Rroma community into Romania’s society.