Since September I’ve been volunteering in the village Mera, near Cluj-Napoca in Romania. When I came here I had different expectations concerning my project, the new city, the new country and the people living here. I knew that there are many Hungarian people, and in some regions of Transylvania, German Saxons as well. But how do they all live together? I also knew that like in every other region of Europe, Roma people have their place here.
I work in a project with socially disadvantaged children, with other German and Hungarian volunteers. When I had to choose my project in Germay last year, this program sounded very interesting to me. But I didn’t know much about the culture of Roma, except little things we talked about in school and I read in newspapers. But I knew that there is still intolerance and prejudice against them in many countries.
Coming to Romania and working in a project with many Roma children was my way to come close to the Roma topic, and to meet Phiren Amenca. The other volunteers and I were at a great seminar in December hosted by Phiren Amenca. I learned a lot about the cultures of Roma and their situations in other countries. I am looking forward to the next seminar.
In Mera there is a so called „Gypsy mountain“ where many children who come to our project live. When we visited it I was confronted with poverty, and many people of different generations all living together. The 50 children in our project come after kindergarten or school and get lunch and help with their homework. About 95% of them are Roma.
I am happy that I am here now! My work is very much fun. I like to spend my time with the kids and have them around. Bekki, another German volunteer, and I work in the kindergarten group. We play a lot with them but also try to prepare them for school. Last week we taught them how to write their own names. Sometimes it is very difficult because there are still big language barrieres. Mera is a Hungarian village and all children speak Hungarian, some Romanian and Romani. But I am still learning and I can communicate somehow with them now. I have a big mix of Hungarian and Romanian in my head.
After I finished High School last year in Germany I wanted to take a break from studying and do something else. I was not sure what I wanted to study, but I was sure that I first wanted to go in a social project abroad and work with children. I am satisfied with my decision to come here. There is so much to discover and to see here. I learn a lot about people and culture and myself. A gap year is a great chance for everyone to learn about herself and other people. I think I will have a good time the next months and I hope that I can learn more.
Caro Barth has began her voluntary service in Mera, Romania in September 2011.