Grundtvig Learning Partnership visit to Romania
Karen Venables our Doncaster foyer manager was recently asked to represent the Foyer Federation on a learning and cultural exchange as part of the Kaleidoscope Learning Partnership.
Karen, along with 5 others from different organisations within the Foyer movement had the opportunity to spend 3 days with the hosting organisation Scola Nostra in Sacueni to learn how they engage and work with young people, promote social inclusion and interact with their local community.
The first day of the trip saw the group visit the school of the hosts, Ingird andMariella. The visit coincided with a week of free activity that showed the children engaged in activities that were creative and fun which is very reminiscent of the talent work done in our foyers.
The second visit saw the group visit the local Roma community showing a very stark contrast to the happy school in Scola Nostra, here the group were greeted with young children carrying wood on their backs, almost toppling over with the weight strapped to them.
Despite being faced with such huge inequalities on every level, the group was left humbled to be greeted so warmly by the Roma children with huge smiles on their faces.
The third learning experience of the day, which also raised a lot of emotion, was to the Devai Szent Ferenc Orphanage. Where the group were fortunate to meet a remarkable lady called Agnes whose faith not only gave her the strength to work tirelessly to provide a home for the 17 young children who the group met, but also with the help of volunteers from the local community was transforming the orphanage so it could also be home to a further 43 children and provide day time education to a further 40 young people. There was a huge sense of family, belonging, love and warmth from Agnes to the children who have been brought to her from the most difficult of circumstances and the group were left feeling inspired by Agnes passion and ability to transform the lives of these young children.
Day two consisted of a journey to the Social Services and Child Protection department in Oradea where the group learnt about the services that they provided to vulnerable people across with whole of the Bihor County in Romania.
The next learning experience involved a visit to the Ruhama Foundation to hear how this particular organisation worked directly with the Roma community. Having witnessed the previous day, the very difficult conditions in which these communities lived. As with many inclusion projects, the group also heard about how the challenges of time limited funding can impact on the long-term effectiveness of such programmes.
The final day of learning included a visit to the University to hear from Lecturer Szekedi Levente about the history and extent of the marginalisation of the Roma Community and on the effectiveness of the Roma inclusion programmes in Romania.
It has been a very thought-provoking and humbling learning experience, some of which I will not forget for a very long time. In terms of the future, with new working partnerships, there is commitment to providing similar learning exchanges for the clients in our services, who too, can truly benefit from the learning and knowledge from such experiential journeys, as we strive to transform their lives into ones that flourish and thrive