In Rural Romania, Youth Educate Their Peers on Public Health Issues
Even in this day and age, in a country as developed as Romania, misinformation about HIV/AIDS continues to exist in some areas. A group of Roma and non-Roma youth took it upon themselves to shed light on the issue for their peers. Roma and non-Roma youth, aged 14-18, organized a training on the social and biological aspects of the disease for other youth in their school in a new series of workshops on community issues.
“It’s very important because lots of students don’t know how HIV is transmitted. Some even believe it’s alright to put down or avoid people with HIV/AIDS because they think it’s easily transmittable,” said one of the youth organizers.
These youth, from Valeriu D. Cotea High School in Focsani, Romania, have been actively engaged in their school and community for the past few months implementing the project “Together for Communication” as part of the Youth Civic Engagement and Dialogue Program. By conducting educational and awareness raising campaigns on various topics, the youth hope to instill a sense of volunteerism and civic engagement to other students at their school while teaching them about key issues in their community. They are also learning principles of tolerance through action, cooperating across ethnic lines to forge relationships between Roma and non-Roma youth.
At the HIV/AIDS seminar, a representative from the local Red Cross shared expertise and provided informational materials and personal hygiene products to the students. More than 70 students attended, one of whom said, “It’s important to help people living with HIV and AIDS to feel welcome in society and ask them to be friends.”
The team also organized an information session on human trafficking and drug use for 60 students. Youth brought a representative from the Vrancea Police County Inspectorate, who spoke to the group and focused on raising awareness of human trafficking and ways to prevent victimization. The youth had identified trafficking as a growing problem in their community, and experts shared information on the economic factors that contribute to trafficking and the importance of being wary of strangers. The team also conducted additional sessions on First
Aid training and passed out informational flyers in their community highlighting personal safety and hygiene. By raising awareness of local issues and facilitating conversation, the youth hope to encourage others to become proactive in community life yearlong.
Using community resources and skills they have learned at the Community Schools Academy, the youth in Focsani plan on providing youth with access to information so that they, in turn, will be motivated to contribute to their school and community.
The Youth Civic Engagement and Dialogue Program in Romania and Moldova is a program of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the U.S. Department of State, and is implemented by IREX and Romani CRISS.