Romania is in a state of change, continually moving toward greater development; as evidenced by its recent additions to the European Union in 2007. This historic country on the Black Sea has plenty of cultural attractions to keep a volunteer busy. Transylvania is the largest and most well-known area. From the castles and town to the forests and alps, Transylvania and many areas of Romania truly embody medieval culture and history.
The number of children living in orphanages and under the care of the government continues to rise in Romania. There are many reasons that can be attributed to the high number of abandoned, neglected, and orphaned children in Romania. The state of poverty Romania has experienced led many families to be unable to care for their children. By volunteering your time in orphanages in Romania, you will contribute to a much larger cause and make a difference in young lives. Volunteer activities include cleaning, feeding, child care, tutoring, and more.
The education system in Romania has been through many recent reforms like the rest of the country’s industries. School attendance is required from age 6 or until 17. Tutoring is especially common in primary and secondary school. Even though school enrollment is generally high, it has continued to slowly decline since 2004. A strong foreign volunteer presence and interest always encourages attendance. Many volunteer programs offer volunteers the opportunity to work in schools assisting teachers, tutoring after school, and teaching English themselves.
The healthcare system in Romania has improved recently, especially after it became part of the EU. Romania’s government offers free universal healthcare but it seems that healthcare is still easier and of higher quality for those with more money. Volunteers with medical backgrounds can be of great help to disabled and disadvantaged Romanians. Sharing your expertise with a local clinic, hospital or health care advocacy group is extremely important.
NGOs/Volunteer Culture: With more than 200 NGOs listed in Romania on WANGO, there are many ways for volunteers to lend a hand. Several larger volunteer organizations, like the Peace Corps and WWOOF, are also present in Romania. Teaming up with one of these non-profits, no matter how big or small, is sure to be a great experience.
Best Places to Volunteer: Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is sometimes referred to as “the Paris of the East.” This city enjoys a laid back, bohemian style with plenty of good food and social scenes. While you will see many beautiful and historic landmarks, a city such as Bucharest is sure to have lots of poverty as well. Volunteers can find many different opportunities to help out here. Sighişoara is a more rural area where you will find vibrant aspects of medieval culture thriving.
Health and Safety of Volunteers in Romania
Locals in Romania are generally friendly and helpful. There is little crime to worry about besides theft so always be aware of your belongings and surroundings, especially in crowded neighborhoods or those occupied by gypsies. Wild animals, especially stray dogs, are another minor safety issue to be aware of. Consider getting travel insurance to cover small accidents and illnesses. Some basic vaccinations are recommended before traveling to Romania, including hepatitis A and B, typhoid and MMR. See MD Travel Health for more details on health in Romania.