Volunteering in Romania:
An Unexpected Impact
Fueled by a desire to teach theater to kids abroad, Elizabeth Lengyel signed up to volunteer in Romania through Projects Abroad with little idea of what to expect – and certainly with no thought of the positive impact she was soon to make. As an Atlanta-raised aspiring actress living in Chicago, she was enticed by the opportunity to travel to a foreign country and use her talents to benefit children who haven’t had the same opportunities that she and so many Westerners are accustomed to.
Upon arrival in her placement at a day care in Prejmer, a village outside Brasov, Lengyel was quickly thrust outside her comfort zone. Facing a serious language barrier and conditions being below what she was used to in the United States, it would have been easy for her to give up and look for a new placement.
“At first, it was a bit overwhelming,” Lengyel said. “The kids didn’t speak much English, so teaching and general communication was a challenge. However, we gradually began to find ways to communicate, and Gabriella, a teacher at the day care, helped translate.”
Something about these kids inspired her, however, and she instead stuck it out. From the beginning, Lengyel said she felt a connection to these kids, which helped her overcome the challenges. After a few days of settling in, began to adapt to the various challenges of the project and find help through Gabriella.
“Even from the first day, there was something about these kids I just loved,” Lengyel said. As she got further into the placement, Lengyel set out to raise money for the kids at the day care, to help pay for various supplies that were needed. After consulting with Claudia, the head of the day care, she determined that new shoes were an important need the kids had.
After hearing of the need for new shoes, and already having set out to raise money for the day care, Lengyel had an idea. Her 20th birthday happened to fall during her time in Romania, and instead of asking for gifts for herself, she asked friends and family to donate to the fundraiser she set up for the kids.
In the end, she raised a little more than $2,500.There was enough money to buy all of the kids new shoes, a new shirt and a new pair of pants. Lengyel came to Romania thinking she was going to be the one doing the teaching, but she said the kids ended up teaching her just as much as she taught them. “I understand what’s really important in life now,” Lengyel said. I’m really thankful I was able to get involved in these kids lives over the past six weeks, and learn that happiness can be reached without the pursuit of material wealth.”
She said she definitely plans to return to Prejmer one day, and will continue to stay in touch and help in whatever way she can from her home in the United States.