“These were the moments where they felt seen, worthy, and loved.” -Kanaar Bell

1. Describe the life of the kids and young adults. After getting to know them, what do you think life has been like for them?

For the most part, their parents abandoned many of them at a very young age. It happened at an age where that close connection is essential to healthy development. It’s their first attachment in the world. However, early in their lives, they were robbed of that connection and thrust into the living conditions of institutionalized orphanages. They were subjected to feelings of loneliness. They must’ve felt unloved, more times than not. But you would never guess that by spending a week getting to know each one of them more and more each day. One memory that will never leave me is when we went to go visit the home where the kids now live through the work of Hope & Homes. As we all huddled in the doorway, the kids began to take us by our hands and find our seating. Some went to the kitchen to grab chairs, “Here, sit, sit.” I thought to myself, “How often do they get to do this?” Yet, they were incredibly gracious and beaming with happiness now that their new friends had come over to their home. In that moment, I felt the impact as the backstory of these kids rushed back to me. Abandoned by their families, treated on a mass level rather than being cared for individually, and learning how to manage themselves early on were some of their earliest memories. Yet, they showed us remarkable love.

Kanaar teaching a hobbies vocabulary game

2. What was your sense of what the kids and young adults took away from you being there and spending time with them?

This question brings me back to two moments that occurred on our last day with the older group in Romania.

On the last day, the group had a conversation about stories, vulnerability, and shame – led by our Team Leader Ron. When Ron asked, “What is the most important thing in life to you?” many people in the room expressed their opinions that were followed by head nods and comments to show that what had been said resonated with some in the room. Then our team member and co-leader Bryanna raised her hand and Ron pointed to her gesturing her to speak as the room quieted down. “The most important thing in life is to be known and loved by others and also to know and love others”… you could have heard a pin drop. “GOD BLESS YOU!” yelled out one our Romanian friends. Everyone looked at each other and nodded in agreement – that is, if they weren’t staring off into the distance, taken back somewhere, or thinking of about the statement a little deeper. Either way, that comment seemed to have hit home for all of us.

I hope they took this important point away from our time spent together. The importance of feeling seen, feeling worthy, feeling loved – not only for themselves but making sure to bring that feeling out in others, too. I hope they never forget that they are loved. I hope they never forget the moments of triumph after pushing through and improving new skills. These were the moments when they saw something within themselves and we saw it too. These were the moments they felt great about themselves and we felt great for them. These were the moments where they felt seen, worthy, and loved. Which allowed them to open up more and more each day, letting their light shine brighter and brighter with every new day that came.

The other moment came when most of the group was sitting on the couches while we watched two of our Romanian friends sing songs and perform dances – just having a fun time together. I was sitting beside a boy who had grown to become my little brother with my arm around him and our eyes watering as we watched and cheered on our friends performing. He then looked at me and began to express how sad he was that we were leaving. Before I could reply, he then said, “You know what I have learned? I have learned that it doesn’t matter what someone looks like on the outside, what matters is what is inside their soul. That is what I have learned this week. That is what you have taught me.” I was speechless. I just looked at him as he smiled back at me. I tapped my chest to express my respect and love for my little brother and hugged him close so he could feel it as well. That is impact.

Selfie!!

3. What motivated you to participate in this project?

I place my heart in many initiatives that aim to better the lives of others – youth, in particular. When Ron first approached me with the invitation to join in on this project in Romania, he also explained the backstory of the lives of these children who had been shuffled through the orphanage system at a young age. These children were deemed a vulnerable group because of the early trauma they may have encountered and the odds that were against them. That is until Hope & Homes stepped in. My mission was to help these children improve themselves in any way I could and above that, to help them see the light that each of them held within.

4. What did you take away from the experience related to the kids and/or Hope and Homes?

First of all, I was blown away by the work of Hope & Homes for Children and extremely humbled by what they had accomplished. They were on a mission, and they were making astounding progress towards achieving their goal of globally eradicating institutional care for all children. It was a mission I saw value and worth in dedicating a life to. Interacting with the kids only sweetened the deal. When you hear the backstory of the lives of the children and then meet them, it blows your expectations out of the water. You may go into a social setting with the kids and think, “Okay, I’m here to help them. This is a vulnerable group. They’ve been through a life I couldn’t imagine so I need to help them.” This way of thinking puts the kids in a certain light; you adopt a certain perspective. Funny thing is, after letting go of all expectations and just being with the kids you’d be asking Ron if you were in the right place. These kids expressed so much gratitude, joy, love, and compassion on a daily basis you would be the one coming away that day having learned something. They were shining, as children are supposed to. Amongst all circumstances – past and present – they were shining. Not what you would expect.

As I’m back home now, I feel supercharged. What I experienced in Romania with the kids and young adults filled me with all the positive emotions to combat 1,000 bad days. They showed me the importance of the “little” things in life that we tend to forget or devalue due to the speed and ideals of our lifestyle in North America. They made me feel worthwhile on my personal life mission. The traits they exhibited so freely day-to-day empowered me to do the same. They showed me their resilient poker faces. And they showed me the real effects of their stories, as well. I am better because of them.

5. What did you take away from the experience related to our V2I team?

Because of the personalities of the team, from the beginning, we communicated pretty well. We got a glimpse of who each of us were. However, as the week went on, being with the kids only brought us closer. When it came to diving into important life topics and sharing our opinions and pieces of our story, we got even closer. There’s a part of you that wonders, “Jeeze, is this person going to act differently around me now?” But I realized that after sharing these pieces of ourselves with one another, it allowed us to be our truest selves. The trust and respect for one another was nailed down. This only made us stronger as a team, which contributed to a greater impact on the kids. I am proud to call them my close friends and look forward to reconnecting with them again soon.

Team (week) 3 with the young adults

6. How would you communicate to Venture 2 Impact supporters the impact they had despite not being there?

To those that donated towards this project, I can’t thank you enough. It was your contribution that enabled us to create these heart-warming, life long connections. Your donation stretched farther than either of us could have predicted. It instilled in all of us – volunteers, young adults, kids, and Hope & Homes support workers – with the invaluable aspects of life that one cannot buy. From the very beginning, we joined hands in the movement together. Between V2I and Hope & Homes for Children, you were the bridge that enabled us to work together and bring about an immense impact on both parties. Your dollars, literally, went towards bettering the lives of your loved ones and others you have never met. It was more than an “act of kindness” – it was an investment. Although I could probably speak for some of my team members in expressing our gratitude, I won’t. But I will say this: your contribution and your investment in our work and the youth we grew to love in Romania is only the starting point for building powerful change-makers around the globe.

7. In a few sentences, how would you convince someone else that this project or a similar one would be worth participating in?

I dare you to challenge your perspective, visit the home country of another, immerse yourself in their culture and see what happens. Learn about how your lifestyles differ simply because of where you’re located geographically and then witness for yourself how we are similar. When you’re out of your comfort zone and subjected to something unknown you have no choice but to learn. Not only about your surroundings but also about yourself and the life you’ve been leading. Ask yourself now “How do I see this part of the world?” Go on one of these trips and see if your answer doesn’t change.

Kanaar helping Daniel with his typing skills

8. Is there anything else that you feel is relevant?

The mission that members of Venture 2 Impact have dedicated their lives to has a much larger impact than one would first assume. It’s easy to see on the forefront that what they are doing is honorable work – work that anyone can respect. The thing is, it is beyond complete comprehension until you have felt the impact whether it is for you or through the stories of a returning volunteer. Since I’ve returned home, I’ve had a hard time explaining this trip to people when they ask excitedly “How was it?” Even when my reply sounds good, it still doesn’t capture the depth of the impact this trip left on all our lives. I realized in these times that words could be limiting. Venture 2 Impact is changing lives. And, they are having a damn good time doing it. Working with V2I allows one to push all distractions aside as they return to the core purpose of what it means to be human.

I just really want to say thank you to Venture 2 Impact for the experience of a lifetime – it has impacted me in so many ways that I needed yet didn’t know how to attain. Also, thanks again to Hope & Homes for Children Romania for your phenomenal work and your strong, warm hearts. Thank you to everyone that supported Team 3 to be able to embark on this journey together, I couldn’t imagine working with anyone else. And, thank you to future volunteers – for joining this mission and inevitably continuing to create and spread lasting impact among your own journey. Thank you all.

Singing “We are the Champions” on the last day.      These young people truly are champions!