Volunteer and child, summer 2011

We started ROOF back in 1997 with the aim of helping institutionalized children, with relevant experience in planning, consulting and teaching, but without experience of running a charitable organization or dealing with volunteers. We quickly became aware of a systemic problem: (1) The orphans and institutionalized children have suffered particularly through lack of stable relationships: even their parents have abandoned them (whether by choice or not) and they are left with institutional staff who change jobs, friends who are moved, visitors who don’t stay. (2) Volunteers (especially foreign volunteers) are temporary — seeking a specific experience, filling in time, visiting the country for a year… and are not in the position to build long-term relationships with the children and young people who so desperately need it.

So we ask that our volunteers are aware of this issue. Our best volunteers keep coming back, again and again, and do form with the children those kind of long-term friendships that enrich their lives — both the children’s and the volunteers’ — significantly. When you see a teenager meet the challenges that life throws his way and keep going… when you see this year after year and watch him grow up, not only does it change your life and his, but it is a relationship that you cannot just let go of, whatever happens. You care, he cares, and nothing will be as simple again.