If you are a prospective IVHQ volunteer or are currently in the bouts of volunteering for a summer in Romania, no doubt you will come across the phrase “summer residential camp.” Without question, it is an opportunity for volunteers that have a specific interest in childcare and English education to place that passion to a beneficial context. I, myself, was not enrolled in this placement, but watched as my fellow accommodation mates said their temporary good-byes and embarked for week-long stays at camp accommodations. There they would immerse themselves in the needs of foster children and their interests. I only know this because I was invited to visit for a day amidst my transition to another volunteer placement.
It was July 6, 2017– a Thursday– when I arrived to the camp accommodation. It was a large multi-storied house placed in the middle of spacious, rural fanfare. Open sky was not hard to find and it all seemed entirely sheltered from the urban-ness of the Csikszereda/Miercurea Cuic city center. I had been jostled a bit by the drive, not uncommon here in Romania, and I was eager to get out for some fresh air. Upon arriving, I was greeted by Jackie who would give the breakdown on who I should talk to, and what I should be keeping my eye out for. I had previously expressed that I wished to put my writing skills to good use, and it is my hope in the future to explore the world of investigative journalism. I was privately elated that I would be introduced as the “reporter” for a day. I even had my own camera around my neck to seal the deal.
“He asked if you are a boy or a girl,” Jackie translated.
We were sitting on some side steps to conceal our conversation as to not distract the children from their activities. Seeing a black person in the flesh (apart from music videos) in these parts of Europe is quite an anomaly. It didn’t take long for us to be found out. The dark color spectrum of my outfit and the shrunken nature of my hair underneath my newsboy cap apparently gave me a rather boyish appearance.
I turned playfully coy, dipping my chin inward and said, “That’s a good question, may I ask a you a question? I’m also curious, are you a boy or a girl? I’m not sure either.” Once translated my comment evoked a bashful laugh and a rapid defense. The kids were blunt. They were shameless, which can be fascinating and overwhelming at the same time. Point being, its necessary not to wear your defensiveness on your sleeve. Feelings are more than welcome.
Jackie had given me a list of kids with personalities worth exploring. I sat with her jotting away in my flimsy notebook, slowly putting together a general picture of the children and their lives thus far. Behind the smiles, the flurry of energy burst, and unashamed curiosity were kids that were participants of foster care institutions. Jackie admitted that sometimes the topic of their personal lives was avoided to prevent compromising their privacy as well as the pleasantry of their stay at the camp. I understood this caution, but I also wanted to get deeper than asking the monotonous questions of whether they liked the camp experience or if they liked learning English.
Once our conversation had finished, Jackie had given me a page worth of names. I commenced my search and was immediately flown into the rapid currents of children and chatter. With the assistance of a young woman named Anita as a translator, I could cherry pick of few kids out of the crowd that didn’t mind talking to a stranger for a little while outside on a cloudy day.