Spend your week full of playing and singing with the children in the orphanage. On the weekends, venture out of your steeple-filled city to discover colorful neighboring towns and villages.
Romania is a country home to old traditions — the perfect place to uncover legends you grew up on (like Dracula), site-see the most stunning castles, or delve into quaint farming villages. All these postcard-worthy sites are sprinkled across rolling hills dotted with sheep and towering churches. It’s unreal. Whatever part of Romania’s untapped charm steals your heart, know that the kids you’ll be spending time with will really be the reason you love this country.
Give a bit of your heart to the kids in Romania by volunteering in our orphanage program. Volunteers in this European country dedicate their time to children who hugely benefit from your one-on-one time, encouragement, and attention. It’s our most humbling program. Besides your service, you have lots of opportunities to explore the charming and colorful villages Romania has to offer. There are so many towns to see! On vacation, travel to countries you’re dying to see like Greece, Italy, and Poland. However, the focus week to week is all about helping the kids in the orphanage program, and experiencing local life in your Romanian city …
Glimpse a day in Romania
After having cereal and yogurt for breakfast with your roommates, it’s time to volunteer. The children in the orphanage program are spread between a handful of apartments. All of the children you work with are disabled, with different needs and abilities. How you’re helping (and where you’re helping) will depend on the level of ability of the kids you are working with. The apartment you’ve been assigned to volunteer in has a small group of children of all ages who are bedridden. The kids here have a range of medical and mental diagnoses. Some love when you sing songs, others smile when you help stretch sore muscles, and one little boy lights up when you bring stickers to play with.
It’s about a 30-60 minute commute to your apartment: plan on walking and taking the local bus. You get there right before 9:00, and volunteer until 12:00, then ride back to the ILP apartment for lunch. Your whole ILP semester is all about an authentic Romanian experience, including the meals. You and your group will go breakfast food shopping with a provided stipend at local grocery stores. Then, lunches and dinners are prepared for you and are full of classic Romanian dishes. Haven’t had much Romanian food? It’s lots of cabbage, potatoes, bread, and cutlets. Probably not what you usually eat on the daily at home, but this semester is all about giving you new experiences.
Since volunteering only takes up a few hours per day, there is probably more free time than you’re expecting. You can fill your afternoons how you’d like. Maybe you play games with your group in the apartment. Maybe you grab some of your roommates to explore the narrow streets of your little city. Go grocery shopping for the week, or have gelato near the Palace of Culture (which is your new fav hangout spot). You’ll have lots of opportunities to get out and explore the little city you live in, and travel around Romania on the weekends.
We’ll let you in on a little secret about this country: it’s crammed full of the most charming little towns and villages. We’re talking Transylvanian hills, and colorful old towns tucked behind towering castles. So many of our favorite spots in Romania can be seen on a quick weekend trip, which leaves time for you to spend vacation days exploring the rest of Europe.
HELP IN OUR ORPHANAGE PROGRAM
Romania is really unique because it’s the only ILP location where you are not teaching English. Here, your service goes toward children in an orphanage program. The kids and orphanage children you’re working with range in ages and in health and ability. Some children in the program are non-verbal and bedridden. Others have mild to very severe neurological syndromes.
Most children are 5-18 years old, with a few who are younger or a smidge older than that range. Every child in the orphanage program is disabled, and the majority of the children we work with are orphans, but not all (some have parents who are unable to care for their child financially, but still visit. Others attend a school nearby that’s not available where they are from). How you help will drastically depend on the needs of the children living in the apartment you will be volunteering in. It’s a humbling experience to be helping and connecting with the sweet children here.
Volunteering and Costs
You’ll have the chance to show your kids the love and care that a parent would. It’s best for the kids that one volunteer works with them the whole semester long, so you’ll be able to spend all of your time with “your kids”, and get really close to them. Depending on where you’re serving, volunteers crawl around with young children or take walks down the hallways. Play games outside in the yard with the older children. Stretch tired legs and arms, then rub hands and feed. Sing songs to the kids who can’t leave their beds. Learn from the on-site staff how to help with the basic and routine medical procedures, like changing a feeding tube or helping a child to sit quietly during kidney dialysis. Work with children who don’t receive the attention necessary to develop basic social skills, like learning how to share or not to shout during a tantrum. There are many ways to help in this program in Romania.
The way you are serving seems small and maybe even insignificant. Moments of singing until a sick child cracks a smile, laughing while you place stickers on smiling faces, braiding hair (then getting your hair braided), or realizing that the shyest girl in your room now lights up when you walk into her room. They are small moments, but mark huge levels of success. If you’re excited to give back with your time, attention, and love through these seemingly small acts of service, Romania’s the spot for you.
Why is the program fee higher here? In Romania, volunteers are working with orphans and with children whose families who are unable to care and/or financially provide for their child. Unlike the Exchange Program, the orphans and the families of the children you work with will not be helping to subsidize your costs. All the children you are working with come from very limited means. The service you provide is completely free for them. Thank you for wanting to provide the best care for these kids by volunteering in this humanitarian program!
Interested in other ways you’re needed? Compare ILP’s Humanitarian Programs here.
A small city in northeast Romania: Iasi
—Spring: Depart early/late January – return mid April/early May
—Summer: Depart late April/late May – return early/late August
—Fall: Depart mid August/late September – return end November/mid December, just in time for Christmas
—10 to 15 in a group
—Single males/females and married couples
—18-about 25ish years old
—US and Canadian volunteers
—No experience needed!
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT COVID-19
We paused our Romania program at the start of the pandemic and are so excited to be back again (and have been here since Fall 2021)! So what’s life like in Romania now? After shifting border policies and working with the local government, volunteers have again been allowed to help with the orphanage program here. There are some stricter standards for volunteers here to help protect the health of the children they work with. Masks are required, as well as frequent testing even if you’re vaccinated. Travel around Romania (as well as the EU at the end of your semester) is allowed. Volunteers going to Romania must have their Covid-19 vaccine.
We are so happy to have volunteers in Romania again!
Romania may be small, but it’s packed full of colorful and peaceful towns hidden away from the tourist crowds. While we love exploring Romania (and highly recommend that you do!), it is also situated conveniently close to several favorite travel destinations. Time to country hop on vacations! You can cross the border and be in another country in less than a day. A semester in Romania makes it easy to cross off more than a handful of countries from your bucket list.
Plan on explore Romania, and planning vacations to countries throughout the European Union and Ukraine. Here’s just a few of our recommended spots to choose from …
Brasov, Romania — Heavily influenced by Germany, this city makes you feel like you just stepped into western Europe. Visit old churches and of course … the oh so famous Dracula’s castle. Also home to the narrowest street in Europe (4 feet wide!). It’s a volunteer favorite.
Sibiu, Romania — Spend the day wandering just one of our favorite hidden gem towns in Romania. Take photos of the streets lined with colorful buildings, wander art museums, and snag some treats from a vendor on the street.
Italy — Eat to your heart’s content in Naples! Then, stand in awe of historic architecture in Rome, or take a boat tour of Venice.
Poland — Learn WWII history firsthand by touring historic sites like Auschwitz and the Jewish District. Spend the day exploring Old Town Krakow, and take a trip out to the mountains.
Czech Republic — Arrive early, before other tourists, to walk along famous Charles Bridge. Then, wander up the hill to Prague castle, and shop a little in this capital city.
Austria — Visit museums and photograph incredibly detailed and beautiful architecture in tranquil Vienna. Your favorite artists are found in the museums here.
Ukraine — Soak up the sun at the Black Sea by visiting Odessa, spend a day in charming Lviv and don’t forget the capital, Kiev.
France — Fulfill your childhood dreams by having a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. You also have to spend an afternoon in the Louvre, and soak up the sun on the coast.
Slovenia — Boat across the lake to medieval Bled castle, or take the train through the underground network of caves. You’ll need more time to hike through ravines and canyons.
Bulgaria — Stroll the streets of the capital, relax in famous mineral spas, and bike the mountains along the Black Sea coast.
Moldova — This country is all about cave monasteries, beautiful churches, and another chance to head to the coast. Get the true feel of a Russian culture here.
Croatia — Ancient coastal towns like Dubrovnik, Roman amphitheaters, and some of the most beautiful coastlines in Europe. We love Croatia!
Greece — Head to one of the top destinations in the world. The Parthenon, Mykonos, hilltop monasteries, incredible town views…need we say more?
Slovakia — Travel to Slovakia to take a boat ride to historic castle ruins, then visit Old Town Bratislava. The tiny city of Kosice is hiding one impressive castle.
Hungary — Spend the weekend in Budapest, relaxing in famous thermal spas, walk around castle hill, and take a short cruise for sites of both Buda and Pest.