For anyone considering the IVHQ Romania program I have three words - just do it! I recently returned from 7 weeks volunteering in Romania and would highly recommend to anyone looking to help the community, discover a new culture, and grow as a person.
As this was my first time volunteering abroad, and spending more than a couple weeks away from home, I appreciated how helpful IVHQ was in the process. IVHQ assisted in different ways, from giving advice about which location was best for me, to helping set-up travel, to providing detailed information about what to expect when volunteering abroad as well as an outline to help you prepare. IVHQ was always quick to answer questions and provide the information necessary to help me get ready for this adventure.
Once in Romania, international volunteers work through the local team, Care2Travel. Care2Travel is made up of a small, but wonderful, group of people committed to ensuring that both their foreign volunteers and local partners are supported and receiving the assistance they need. Care2Travel provides an excellent orientation (both before arrival and after) that helps volunteers better understand the language, local culture, and city that they will be living in. These orientations are a great way to get to know the area, the Care2Travel team, some local volunteers, as well as the other volunteers you will be living with during your stay. I spent 6 weeks as an NGO Support volunteer, and was able to see first-hand how much time and effort the team puts in to making sure operations run smoothly (both at programs and in the accommodations) and that they are effective for both the volunteer and the local community. Being part of the daily operations provided first-hand knowledge of how a non-government organization works. I was able to assist on projects both big (such as assisting with a job interviewing process) and small (organizing summer camp materials). This opportunity provided insight into how each task and the various programs form a bigger picture and help the local community in the long-term. As someone who has studied and/or worked in communication, counseling, and social work, there is no doubt that my experience can help better inform my work and my schooling.
Most importantly, I came away from this experience having not only worked for an amazing group of people but having met amazing people as well. Living in the accommodations with others provides an opportunity to get to know your fellow volunteers. Talking with others, I was able to learn about who they are as people, their home countries and customs, and their thoughts and experiences about placements that were different from my own. Through various opportunities, I was also able to meet, spend time with, and talk to locals in the area. Getting to know the locals was a great way to develop a better cultural understanding of both people and place, test your new language skills, or just have wonderful conversations about topics ranging from movies, to history, to international relations. By the time my 7 weeks were up, it was hard to leave the newly established relationships I had made while in Romania.