PACT Foundation – Partnership for Community Action and Transformation has been accelerating the process of change in the south of Romania for 14 years now due to our belief that Romanian society will evolve in a healthy manner only if it grows from the bottom up through leaders and ideas from within local communities. Our vision is that every community in Romania has the courage, confidence, and capacity to take an active role in its own future.
We support the sustainable development of rural and small urban communities by encouraging, growing, and promoting local and regional initiatives, partnerships, and social responsibility at the individual, business, government, and industrial levels.
Photo by PACT Foundation
In Romania, rural areas represent 87.1% of the entire area and 45% of the population (approximately 9,600,000 Romanians). 8.8% of people are at risk of extreme poverty in rural areas in comparison to 2.2% risk of extreme poverty in urban areas.
Three of the areas with the highest rates of population at risk of poverty and social exclusion are in the south of Romania: South-West Oltenia, South-East, South Muntenia. The majority of people in the countryside have no jobs and grow their own food. Access to services, information, and new opportunities is reduced, which is why young people decide to migrate towards urban areas or even abroad. Despite all this, there are still more children born in the countryside than in big cities. The south has also been under threat of desertification for decades while the national policymakers encourage big farms, making it difficult for small landowners to associate and create wealth in their communities.
Photo by PACT Foundation
People are the most important resource in the south. Even if the south is neither a very touristic area, nor very popular for investors, from our experience people here are open and determined to improve their lives. If they are encouraged to do so, they have initiative and they act voluntarily. The challenge is to reach them, gain their trust, and give them the support they need to become active citizens and local changemakers.
PACT Foundation helps people form community-based organizations (CBOs) to identify local resources, act together at the local level for the benefit of their community with a special focus on the most vulnerable. Our challenge is to help create community organizations that are recognized by all the local actors as proactive and equal partners in developing the locality. It's also always a challenge to keep up the support for these CBOs and to provide capacity building so that they become sustainable and resilient. Last but not least, it’s not always easy to promote the success stories of active communities in other rural localities that may benefit from their positive models.
The process each community involved in PACT’s projects follows relies on the support of community facilitators. Together with the facilitator, and with the benefit of knowledge and skills acquired during training sessions, people identify what their common needs are, the methods to solve them, and how they can get involved. Then PACT Foundation provides them small grants for the local projects that emerged.
For the communities where PACT Foundation works, this process often means a chance to build a new fountain, renovate a playground, establish a community center, launch a social business, develop greater financial resources in the community, increase local welfare, re-establish trust between people in their locality, or even co-create a local development strategy together with all the actors.
Project 'A greener Malu Vânăt' by the local community group
To tackle some of the challenges mentioned above, a unique approach to capacity building that PACT has created during the Civic Europe Program will enable local leaders to become mentors for 6 new initiative groups in small neighboring communities. At the same time this program gives us the opportunity to offer grants to active CBOs from the south of Romania that will help them grow the impact they have on their communities.
The Capacity Building program in Romania consists of 5 learning events – 1 training workshop for mentors, 2 trainings for individual leaders in specific localities, and 2 for experienced community-based organizations in the respective local language – and provides grants for funding of up to 12 locally-rooted initiatives (1st round for 6 initiatives from new community groups, 2nd round for 6 initiatives from experienced CBOs). The learning events are held partly in person and partly as online or hybrid events.
During the whole process, the participants are guided by mentors who are experienced alumni and know the learning approach from their own personal and professional development.
The learning events focus on the following topics:
Role of mentors
The mentors play a very specific role: They are the ones that identify leaders in the communities that can bring about change. Our 6 local leaders, representing 6 community-based organization (CBOs), will mentor and support 6 new community groups in small neighboring villages (Baneasa, Giurgiu county; Ologeni & Tatarai, Prahova county; Malu Vanat, Arges county; Orsova, Mehedinti County; Straosti, Prahova county; ”Colonie” Vulcan, Hunedoara county).
The mentors come from a pool of CBO leaders with the ability to transfer their experience, motivation, and good practices to others.
Urlați Community Initiative Group
Nicolae Constantin, mentor
Through our actions in past years, we have become a link between the community, the local authorities, and other local institutions and entities. Our mission in the area is to identify problems and needs of the entire community and to find resources and solutions for the members who get involved in solving them.
Eșelnița Cazanele Dunării Community Association
Elisabeta Păcuraru, mentor
Our association was born out of a community facilitation process and is tasked with mobilizing all human and material resources for the development of our community and the Danube Clisura area. Our activities are focused on topics such as education, environment, youth, civic participation. We set up an educational center in the community for the underprivileged students, promote and award volunteering, organize campaigns to inform and promote civic education and environmental protection in the community.
Ciocanești Association for Community Development
Magda Diaconu, mentor
The aim of our association is to support the development of the community of Ciocanesti to achieve a civil living environment that thrives materially and culturally, and to improve sustainable development for members in all the villages of the community. In Vizurești, we operate as an initiative group under the umbrella of ADCD, the Vizurești Open Hearts Group.
Traditions, Education, Culture Association of Gaujani
Cornelia Enache, mentor
Our organization's mission is to increase the quality of life of community members, especially children. Our project’s aim is the support of community members, especially the most vulnerable. Our main areas of work have been the prevention of school drop-outs, vocational training, civic education programs, economic activities, the promotion of material and intangible heritage, and the improvement of general health.
Cristi Dumitrașcu, mentor
We work in support of those people in the community who have problems in the areas of housing, education, health. These can be vulnerable people and those who ask for our support – mainly children and young people benefit from this.
Partner for You Association
Sorina Bunescu, mentor
Our organization’s mission is to support communities, especially rural ones, for cultural, social, economic, educational, civic, and entrepreneurial development. In fact, our organization offers support for those who lack voice and power, we are an ally to those who want change and progress, a partner for citizens and institutions in solving the needs of the community.
Ologeni & Tatarai community group
Ologeni and Tătărăi villages in Prahova County, Romania
Five women from Ologeni and Tătărăi, schoolteachers and kindergarten teachers from the initiative group “Încrezătorii”; each have a passion they wanted to convey to the children to help them become active in the community. After the implementation of the project, they are willing to continue as a local NGO to easily access resources. The leader of the group is Viorica Constantin, a dedicated kindergarten teacher who also excelled as a leader and project manager. The group initiative was inspired by their mentor Magdalena Diaconu from the Community Development Association, Ciocănești, Dâmbovița.
Malu Vanat community group
Malu Vânăt in Arges County, Romania
Four mothers from a segregated Roma community formed the group Mothers with Initiative in Malu Vânăt. They were supported by the association Partner for You whose leaders Sorina & Dragoș Duță Bunescu acted as mentors for them. It is unusual in a Roma community for young women to take the initiative, therefore the main challenge they succeeded in overcoming is the general mentality that women should stay at home and take care of their children and extended family; they really opposed the attitude of the other community members!
Băneasa community group
Băneasa village in Giurgiu County, Romania
Our group initiative in Băneasa is formed around the needs of the children in the community to socialize, to develop their soft skills and to discover the heritage of their community together in a fun way. Six community members of different social status (social worker, teachers, elderly women) get involved in planning the project and took responsibilities in implementing activities.
The leader of the group initiative is Elena Pădure who lives in Băneasa but works in another community, 80 kilometers from her home, as a health mediator. They intend to apply to establish an NGO. The mentor who supported the Bănesarii initiative group is Cornelia Enache from the Traditions, Education, Culture Association, from Găujani, Giurgiu County.
Colonie Vulcan community group
Vulcan in Hunedoara County, Romania
The group initiative in Vulcan consists of 11 people who are living in a segregated, poor neighborhood in Vulcan, called Colonia de Jos. From the beginning of the project, the group members followed all necessary steps in the participatory process of needs analysis in the community, established and followed a working meetings schedule and worked very closely with city hall and the mayor during the entire project. The leader of the group is Marius Cumpăn, a dedicated young man who has managed to overcome the challenges of a very poor community, most of all the mistrust and division. The mentor for this initiative is Cristi Dumitrașcu, the leader of the Development, Education, Partnership Association from Bumbești Jiu, Gorj County.
Orșova community group
Orșova in Mehedinți County, Romania
Five elementary school teachers and parents formed the initiative from Orșova, a small city on the Danube. The added value of this group is that they capitalized on the children’s creativity and playfulness and proposed and implemented a successful project that is now an example for how a schoolyard can be an educational tool and change behaviors and attitudes. The leader of the group is the school’s director, Erika Cernea. They were inspired by and benefited from the experience and knowledge of Elisabeta Păcuraru who mentored them. The initiative members intend to continue the work as an NGO.
Straosti community group
Străoști in Prahova County, Romania
The group from Străoști gathered around its leader and the community project manager Vasile Lazăr. The mentor, Constantin Nicolae from the Urlați Community Initiative Association, Prahova, supported Vasile in the challenge to mobilize the community around a common problem. It wasn’t easy, but through the personal example, Vasile succeeded.
We make it together!
By Ologeni and Tătărăi Community Group
The aim of the community project was to provide an alternative to screen addiction for 80 children in the area through attractive alternative educational activities. To achieve this, the group organized creative workshops aimed at triggering the children’s creativity and channeling it into building better social skills and increasing self-esteem. The project also had a focus on ecology and nutrition and involved parents, elders and other members of the community in collective activities that promote a sustainable future.
One important aspect of the community project in Ologeni &Tătărăi is the increased number of volunteers from the community who participated in the renovation of the building and the room where the activities were held. The building was also a contribution to the project by one of the community members.
A greener Malu Vânăt
By Malu Vânăt Community Group
The aim of the project was to create a community space where children aged 4 to 10 and their parents could safely meet and interact. To this end the group planned to involve community members and local authorities in cleaning up a community space and building a playground according to their needs and vision.
The group developed a participatory process – combining online and community meetings or individual talks – in order to identify what community members consider the community’s most important problems: The increased involvement and participation of the mayor and the local council in the realization of the playground, also contributing a significant amount of money, doubled the Civic Europe grant; the increased self-esteem of the mothers from the group that coordinated the project set an example of civic engagement for their community; not least the involvement of the children that give this project, A Greener Malu Vânăt, its future promise.
Stories and storytelling from Băneasa
By Băneasa Community Group
The community project aimed at promoting and expanding the socio-cultural heritage of the local community by involving the children and the youngsters in educational activities. During the project, children in the area had a chance to discover local traditions, to harvest local stories of village life from their elders and to learn about music, arts and nutrition. The project encouraged developing reading abilities for the youngest children and tried to bring the community closer together through small informal gatherings for cooking together and storytelling.
The project showed that collaboration and partnership in the community, support from local institutions, and the sincerity and responsibility of the volunteers involved in the project are the main ingredients for success. The project showed everyone in the community that civic involvement can raise the self-esteem of everyone involved, can foster pride in being born in a village rich in traditions and for the children it was a fun but educational way to spend their free time.
A meeting space for the community
By Colonie Vulcan Community Group
The project aimed to stimulate the voluntary involvement of community members in civic actions and strengthen relationships among the citizens that live in the Colonie neighborhood in Vulcan, Hunedoara. A secondary objective was to elevate the self-esteem of the children in the community. To this end, the members of the group built a wooden pavilion with benches near the small children’s playground in their community to attract community members to this shared space and increase social cohesion. The new community space hosted educational workshops held by volunteer local schoolteachers for the children living in Colonie.
An added positive aspect was that the mayor and the local council in Vulcan were involved in the process and they responded very well. This was a good sign that a bridge of trust was built among community actors. Since it was a very transparent process, the initiative group members were able to gain the trust of the community. New volunteers from outside the community came to be involved in the activities with children.
School break through play and movement
By Orșova Community Group
The aim of the project was to increase the participation of the community members in local wellbeing by creating an educational safe space where the children and youngsters can spend their free time. To this end, the local school opened its schoolyard for community members to create an interactive playground and hold meetings on civic engagement and entrepreneurship.
The project, called “Great re-creation through play and movement,” was a very innovative project that fostered the children’s creativity, their self-esteem and their parents’ participation in education. Together, the teachers, parents and pupils painted the most interesting new games proposed by the pupils in the schoolyard.
A playground for the community
By Străoști Community Group
The project aims to bring the community members of Straosti together around the common goal of building a playground for the children living there and in nearby places that have no access to a safe space for their children to play together.
The group succeeded in retaining the involvement of the local administration, which doubled the initial investment made in the community through the grant. Vasile and the group only made a start with the playground; the site will become a sporting facility for the children and adults in the community.
ASCED - The Association for Solidarity, Culture, Education and Development
Ramnicul Sarat, Buzau county
The mission of# ASCED is the initiation and development of socio-cultural actions, the promotion and development of educational programs for vulnerable people, children, young people, adults, the elderly, the promotion of culture and art, the development of civic involvement, and social protection programs. It is a non-profit organization based on voluntary work.
The Cultural Association Mircenii
Mircea Voda, Braila county, Romania
The mission of Mircenii Association is to actively contribute to the development of the community in Mircea Voda, Braila County, by preserving and promoting the tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Mircenii was first an initiative group that was established with PACT Foundation support in 2013 and became an NGO starting with 2018.
AVATAR Association in partnership with The Center for Popular Research and Documentation
South of Romania
Non-governmental organization dedicated to personal development and capitalizing on the potential of children and young people, through non-formal education activities. AVATAR carries out projects in the field of active citizenship, increasing access to culture for vulnerable groups (children and young people from rural areas, Roma, with disabilities), education through culture, cultural intervention. AVATAR works in the most disadvantaged areas, mostly in the south of Romania and worked in Vizurești Dâmbovița County with Civic Europe.
The Technologic High School
Baia de Fier, Gorj County, Romania
The high school in Baia de Fier aims at developing education for the community’s youths at European standards by raising resources from the community and region and through the development of social and educational partnerships with regional stakeholders. The teachers from this high school are members in an initiative developed with the support of PACT Foundation in year 2013. Since then, they continue to work for the improvement of the school infrastructure and for the students’ wellbeing.
The Danube Delta Cultural Center
Mahmudia, Tulcea county, Romania
The Association was established in 2014 after the implementation in their community of a participatory process, proposed by PACT Foundation. They aim to support and promote the cultural values and to strengthen civic engagement in the community.
They are the organizers since 2016 of Mahmudia, the annual festival of diversity in a region in which the most important resource is the ethnic diversity.
The Ocolna Community Initiative Group
Ocolna, Dolj county, Romania
The community-based organization from Ocolna was established in 2013 through a participatory process, developed with extended PACT Foundation support – community facilitation, funding, consultation, and training. Since then, they worked for the improvement of the living conditions in their 100% Roma, poor, and segregated community. They started a cooperative that cultivates and sells watermelons and they constantly work to increase the local peoples’ access to education and health, but also provide all kinds of other opportunities for the community’s children.
Young beekeepers in Domeniile Coroanei
By ASCED - The Association for Solidarity, Culture, Education and Development
The project aimed at increasing interest in beekeeping activities for unemployed youths living in Rușețu commune, Buzau county. ASCED helped 18 youths to attend certified training in beekeeping and purchased 12 bee colonies and the corresponding beekeeping materials for them to practice. 12 of the 18 youths received the apiary in administration at the end of their learning journey. The main outcome of the project is that the 12 who succeeded will serve as role models for other young people in the community to make their life better by learning a craft that is increasingly being forgotten – beekeeping.
The story of a hundred years
By the Cultural Association Mircenii
In 2021 the village of Mircea Voda turned 100 years old. The aim of the project was to preserve and promote the local identity of Mircea Voda. The Cultural Association Mircenii offered the opportunity for a group of children to interview 30 elders of their community to gather stories that they converted into local heritage through films and photos and events such as the “Living Library.” Mircenii created an archive and a website with the preserved stories and photographs.
The most important outcome of the project, however, is the strengthening of social bonds in the community, based on common history, traditions, and values, through intergenerational dialogue.
The Vizuresti scene: Youths tell their stories through social theater
The project empowered the young people from Vizuresti village to become a local nucleus of civic initiatives that increase civic engagement and local action. A group of 15 youths were trained in the practice of social theater as a community intervention method to raise awareness of the most challenging needs the members of Vizuresti are facing in their development. The main outcomes of the direct beneficiaries, the youths, are accumulated information about active citizenship, project writing, and theater. They have developed favorable attitudes towards non-formal activities and collaboration with others and have acquired skills of personal expression, collaboration and teamwork, emotion and conflict management, negotiation.
The school courtyard – a space for recreation and social interaction for the children of Baia de Fier
By the Technologic High School
The project created a space in the courtyard of the Technological High School in Baia de Fier where children/students can enjoy their lunch break and have an adequate place to socialize and play. The added value of the project is the fact that the students themselves were involved in deciding what outside furniture the school would buy and activities for arranging the courtyard.
The Literary Cafe
By Danube Delta Cultural Center
The project aimed at developing a sense of shared cultural identity but also civic abilities and attitudes especially among the youngest members of the community. To this end, the Cultural Center created an open space where they organized meet ups for the exchange of local stories, traditions, arts and crafts. They held poetry and folk evenings and an awareness campaign on ecological issues that targets the camping tourists who visit their region. Through this project, the association managed to attract more young volunteers who were involved in the project activities as coordinators of activities within the workshops. They also attract new sponsors that will continue to support their work in the community.
A better Ocolna
By Ocolna Community Initiative Group
The aim of the project was to create better community living conditions through access to a public clean water source and the purchase of sports and play equipment for the sports grounds hosted by the local school. At the end of the project, the group hosted a world café with members of the community to increase civic engagement, to plan for sustainability, and further local actions.
Any project implemented by the community-based organization in Ocolna is a small step forward towards self-determination of the locals and their civic engagement. This project solved a problem that was overlooked by the local authorities too long: It doubled the number of families that have access to clean water by purchasing and installing a water pump with increased power. For the children in Ocolna, sports, especially football, are very important because for some of them, the most gifted, this is the only way to escape from the community through the better life of a professional football player or athlete.