Teo & Maria

Building long-lasting bonds through volunteerism

In 2018, Teo Strynatka, an artist originally from Romania, co-founded a Volunteer Program in Baia Mare, Romania with Venture 2 Impact. It was during this Program that Teo formed a special bond with Maria. 

Maria is a young adult from Romania who grew up in the institutionalized orphanage system. In the past, Romania has seen substantial surges in the use of institutional orphanages, leaving young adults, like Maria, to face many social and economic challenges.

Maria was part of a three week training and mentorship program for youth who have experienced life in the institutionalized orphanage system. With the help of Teo, Venture 2 Impact partnered with Hope and Homes for Children to facilitate this training with a team of skilled volunteers, who worked with 20 Romanian youths to teach and empower them in the areas of English, computers, and life skills. The program not only provided the youth with the skills needed to integrate into society as adults, but also with the inspiration and motivation needed to stay in school and obtain meaningful employment.

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During Maria’s experience in the program, she not only gained useful life skills, but also formed a special, long lasting bond with Teo.

“Teo spent more time with me and she taught me to write, read and speak English and she taught me to cross stitch. My first trip outside Baia Mare was in Cluj and I did this trip with Teo.  She taught me how to use the GPS on my phone so I can visit places and not get lost and taught us to paint when she came to Baia Mare.  She has even encouraged me since 2017 to get my high school degree and hopefully this year (after 4 tries) I will accomplish this,” says Maria. 

Teo had a big impact on Maria by helping her to gain the confidence she needed in herself to achieve her goals and aspirations, like getting a high school degree. “She was like a second mother to me and I want to thank her very much, because without her help I wouldn’t have tried to get my high school degree. I wouldn’t have started to trust myself more and I wouldn’t be independent now,” Maria comments. 

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Now, three years later, Maria has turned her goals and dreams into reality! She is currently getting her high school education, and now works in a bakery in Paris, France. 

“I was thinking for a long time about leaving Romania, but I didn’t have the courage to do so.  The company I used to work in Romania, as a seamstress, closed, so I had to find a different job. I applied online for the job in Paris and when they called me in I was very happy. I thought that was the time for me to make my own decisions without my parents’ thoughts or other people’s opinion. I knew I could do this, I knew that I could build a better life for myself. Going to Paris was a dream for me and now it is reality,” says Maria. “I didn’t expect to ever have this opportunity, the opportunity to move and work in Paris, but I guess when you least expect it, that is when it happens.”

The time Teo took to support Maria, left a lasting impact and helped encourage her that she can go for what she wants, which in this case, was moving to Paris!

“I knew that Maria wanted to leave Romania but I knew she didn’t have the courage to do so.  But hearing that she did leave Romania, that she went to Paris, her favorite city, makes me feel very proud of her,” says Teo. “The most rewarding part for me is to see Maria independent, to see Maria having courage to be on her own.”

We feel so grateful to have been a part of Teo and Maria’s journey and have seen them become so close. We are also so happy to see Maria striving for her dreams and we can’t wait to see where they take her next!

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