Helping Orphans in Romania *Video*

I met my friend Brid (along with Paula) while traveling in Ethiopia. We had wandered into a tourist agency to enquire about a trekking expedition to the Simian Mountains. We all signed up and had one of the most miserable times in our lives — really! The silver lining was that Brid & Paula & I became fast friends.

Engaging in Child’s Play

It was over dinner in Addis Ababa one night that Brid first told me about her trips volunteering overseas. The first trip she took was to Ecuador to work with emotionally disturbed children. See, as a professional therapist, Brid specializes in “play therapy.”

Play therapy helps children with severe behavioral problems express themselves through unstructured and non-directed “play” that can help diagnosis and heal their internal conflicts. I love that Brid was willing to use her professional talents with children who would normally not be exposed to this type of advanced psychosocial training.

Volunteering in Ecuador

Brid was going to Ecuador on holiday to explore the jungle and Andes, but during her break she also wanted to spend some of her time volunteering with a local children’s home. Unfortunately, although she signed up for the volunteer work ahead of time and paid for the experience, it wasn’t well planned and she wasn’t working with children in need.

This lack of planning on the part of the overseas nonprofit meant that Brid had to take the initiative to ensure her volunteer experience was of value (which is not an uncommon occurrences). Luckily, she was able to find a child who desperately needed her help and she worked with the child one-on-one for the remainder of her volunteering engagement.

In the end, Brid was able to make a meaningful contribution and the child received personalized, professional assistance to help him better deal with his emotional and behavioral challenges.

Donating in Romania

Her second time volunteering was in Romania, where she visited twice to hand out donations that she had collected before leaving Ireland. Here’s her story:

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Adventure Philanthropist Brid

Lessons of Overseas Engagements

Brid’s experiences with volunteering and donating overseas illustrate some of the challenges of providing assistance in a foreign country.

First, volunteering programs are not always well run. I recommend you do some homework before signing up, especially talking to past participants in the program to hear first-hand about the structure and quality of engagement.

Second, giving money away is not as easy as we all think. It’s very difficult to give responsibly, ensuring that we the organizations are honest and well run, and that they people and programs we’re trying to help are the ones who benefit the most.

I think Brid’s approach of not rushing to give all the donations away on her first trip was excellent restraint. Instead, she waited and came back to make the remainder of the contributions after she was able to take the time to better assess local needs.

So 3 cheers for my buddy Brid! An unselfish and fascinating and fun woman to travel with!

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This entry was posted on Saturday, September 15th, 2012 and is filed under Adventure Philanthropists.

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