For the very first story of the series “Stories from the field”, we are glad and honoured to share the personal story of Maria, a human rights graduate student from Romania, passionate about fighting injustices of any kind. During the summer, she volunteered with Save the Children Romania, and she supported children to realize their rights to health, education, development, and safety, as enshrined in the Convention of the Rights of the Child of 1989.
In the summer 2020, I volunteered with Save the Children Romania. The national delegation was set up in 1990 with the main roles to protect and promote the rights of the child. The first immediate objective was the provision of emergency aid to children in orphanages in a deplorable state. Today, Save the Children Romania deals with health, education, emergency aid, protection, and advocacy. Before I tell you more about my experience, I would like to present myself. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and European Studies. From the beginning of my studies, I was aware that I wanted to pursue a career in human rights so I enrolled in the HRG Master’s program. My main goal in life is to make the world a better place, starting from the local level. I could not envision myself working in a better environment than Save the Children. I was passionate about children’s rights and I was dedicated to helping them.
As we all are experiencing, 2020 has been marked by the global pandemic. In Romania, schools were closed in February and the teaching moved online. A lot of children did not receive a proper education. The issue was that they could not afford an internet connection, an electronic device, or even electricity.
As an intern, I worked with children ranging from 2nd grade to 8th grade. My main tasks were helping them with homework and teaching them some of the methodology that they should have learnt in the months before. In pragmatic words, this meant filling gaps of knowledge in subjects like Romanian, Mathematics, Sciences, and English. Additionally, I ensured children were healthy, not abused, and in a safe and positive environment for their development.
Overall, my experience was very rewarding. I realized how privileged I am and how unfair life is for some people. I found out that knowledge is important, but what really matters on the ground are openness, empathy, and passion for the cause. The experience changed my perspective on human rights. Working in the field is not a realm of data, theories, statistics, and possibilities but rather real life, real experience, and real people tremendously affected by inequality.
Finally, I want to leave you with one experience from the field. I was working with an eight-year-old girl, trying to teach her how to count. I noticed that she was unable to follow and concentrate properly. I stopped and asked: “Are you okay or do you need to take a break?” She said she was fine but extremely tired. On that particular night, she stayed up until four in the morning. She did not offer any other explanation. I was curious and concerned about the reason why she would not have an earlier sleep time schedule. She revealed that she had to stay awake to help her sick grandma who could not move from the bed without assistance. Her answer was shocking. The way in which that little girl was able to take care of her family with such maturity and responsibility impressed me a lot. I still keep in contact with the children and I am eager to see them again next year.
Written by Maria-Araxi Fatoi
Edited by Giulia Rosina and Christine Nanteza
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Maria-Araxi Fatoi is a human rights graduate student, and children’s rights advocate. Follow Maria's story on Instagram @fatoi_maria and Facebook @Maria Fatoi
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