Overall Rating:/ 10I spent one month volunteering at the Romani Centre in Tirana, Albania. The experience - overall - was really amazing. When I look back on my time spent volunteering, all I have are positive memories. The children that you work with are energetic and loving.
I worked with the older children who visited the centre after school, as well. Working with the older kids was a great opportunity to get the chance to actually teach. I made up english lesson plans and games for these kids each day. They loved and were all eager to learn, which was truly inspiring and a highlight of my volunteering. The kindergarten kids are amazing too. Playing with them is fun, but the language barrier is strong. I feel that learning the language (Albanian especially, or some Roma words) is necessary in order to make an impact on the younger kids (the older kids too, really). If not, you might end up feeling like you are just running around trying to enforce rules and learning that you can't fully explain. For example, with the young kids, I chose to focus on establishing some routine. I taught them to say "please", "thank you", and "sorry", (in Albanian) words they hardly every used.
This volunteer placement has so much potential. I am sure it is the case for most placements, but with this one especially, taking initiative is necessary. You don't always have a clear picture of what you're supposed to be doing, so coming up with your own ideas is helpful (and REALLY appreciated). Don't be afraid to suggest a project or an idea to the staff, chances are they will be more than whiling to support you.
The staff are great. I was volunteering there alone, so the girls at the centre, and the family who runs the centre as well, really became close to me. I am still in touch with the staff from the centre, and continue to help them from Canada. The level of discrimination towards Roma people is so much more than I imagined before doing my volunteering - not only in Europe but in North America as well. Like I said before, this NGO has so much potential, and I am proud to have contributed to its growth as an organization.