Annetta Bacon - Drama in Romania
In 2011 I graduated from University, and spent the next year trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. In that time, I decided that in order to truly figure out what to do next, I needed to get out of my comfort zone, and experience the world. Through reflection and research, I ended up deciding that I wanted to go and work in Romania working with orphanages, and then I stumbled across the Projects Abroad website. It seemed like it was too good to be true. They offered projects in Romania, and in addition to being able to work with the children, I would also be able to use my degree in theatre on the Drama project as well.
Arriving in Romania
The first of July, I arrived in Brasov, not really knowing what to expect. I was met at the train station by Alex, the youngest Projects Abroad staff member in Romania. Over the next few weeks I would find out that though he could be surprising at times, he and the other Projects Abroad staff were some of the most genuine people I had ever met in my life.
The care and sincerity that the staff had for the volunteers was unexpected, and made me feel that if there was ever a problem I could depend on them to help, and to be there if they were needed. Whether it was just for advice or for directions to weekend destinations, the staff were always ready to help, and enjoyed being there for the volunteers. I felt as if I had been welcomed into a family.
My Drama placement
Most of the projects had the volunteers going to a single placement, and then working there for their stay, however, since I was in the drama project during the summer, things were a little different. Each day myself and my partner would go to two different placements. Twice a week we would go to a day school, three times a week we ran a summer camp, and in the afternoons I either went to work in a Foster home, or had a charity show or a mini drama project to work on.
My first three weeks, I was lucky enough to be partnered with a dance volunteer from the US, and the last half of my time I worked with another Drama volunteer from Italy. At the day centre and the foster home, we would work with the kids on a variety of activities. At first, my mission with them was to teach them about creativity and how to pretend while they play, while also teaching them some basic English. We would play a variety of games that taught them focus, coordination, expression, memory, and emotion.
It was amazing to watch the children embrace these concepts without even realising it. From the time I arrived, to the time that I left, the transformation that I saw in how the children were willing to tell stories and be creative was amazing. About halfway through, the day centre asked that we help the children prepare for a small show that was going to be performed for the parents at the end of the holiday. The children decided they wanted to work on Little Red Riding Hood, and for the next four weeks our focus was around learning a short script and producing a small show with the kids.
The summer camp had to be my biggest challenge, because it was completely run by the volunteers. Unlike the other placements where we had supervision, helpers, and structure, the summer camp was 100% ours. The opportunity to have such ownership of a project was amazing, and the faith that Projects Abroad put in us was inspiring. After spending some time with the kids, my partner and I realised that one of the main problems plaguing Romania was going to be an issue with us as well; and that was one of discrimination. There tends to be dissent between the gypsy communities and the Romanians, and we decided that our main focus was going to be to try and help the children work together. We never announced this to the kids, but most of our activities were focused on team building and group activities, as well as expanding creativity.
Our hope was that the children would learn to work together, and to hopefully start to respect each other, so when they saw each other outside of camp they would be able to get along in a way they had not previously. When I left, there had definitely been a shift in how the kids regarded each other. When we had first started our project, it was easy to see just by walking in the room who “belonged” in what group. We even had one small Romanian boy cry because he had been assigned to a team with a young gypsy boy. By the time we left, the majority of the children were able to work together peacefully, and the children were used to working together and intermingling with one another.
My favourite projects that I worked on were the charity show and the mini projects. When I arrived, some volunteers that had already been there for a while were hard at work on the annual charity show Projects Abroad puts on in the community. It consists of a mixture of drama pieces, music, and dance. This year, the main event was “Grease in Ten Minutes”. We had a cast of native Romanians, and it was a blast to get to know the girls who were involved in the show, as well as see the talents that they had and give them a chance to showcase them. All of the money that was raised we were able to donate to a local foster home for them to buy cleaning supplies and a printer.
Once the charity show was done, we were able to start working on a mini project to perform for the children out at a couple of foster homes. We did a pantomime of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, and a short play of the Three Little Pigs. The children loved both plays, and it was a lot of fun being able to work with other Projects Abroad volunteers to put the show together.
Weekend activities in Romania
On the weekends there was never a lack of things to do and see. Around Brasov were many small towns that made a good day trip and had lots of history. In the evenings you could walk around Brasov and enjoy a glass of lemonade or get dessert crepes with the other volunteers. Often we would go enjoy some Romanian karaoke with the locals, and if you wanted the waiters were even gracious enough to bring you large buckets of ice to chase away the Romanian summer heat.
Going to Romania was one of the best decisions I have made so far, and I cannot wait to go back. To anyone thinking of experiencing the country first hand, I would say go for it, a thousand times over. It is hard to put into words how beautiful the country, and the people who lived in it, are; but I know that the experiences I had in Romania will stay with me forever.