Running City X Project in Romania

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This is a guest post by Andrea Lucaciu. Andrea works at an orphanage in Romania, Casa Josef, and has been running the City X Project with eight pre-teen girls there.

Romanian girl prototyping during a City X Project workshop in Romania.

Casa Josef is home to eight pre-teen girls, and while most people in town know Casa Josef as an orphanage, these girls aren’t orphans. They have parents, they were just abandoned by them. Romania also has the largest population of Roma (gypsies). Over 80% of orphans in Romania are Roma, and this includes all eight of our girls.

This background is to help state the obvious; none of these girls had a fair start in life. Some days are brutally hard at Casa Josef, and some days I feel overwhelmed because I’m not sure how much I can even help. Yes, I’m there to cover caretaker’s shifts, mop up the floors, reheat spaghetti dinners in the microwave, and correct their English homework. But am I really helping them? Are they going to make it out okay once they’re 18?

They are academically behind their peers (being tied to a crib with zero stimulation as a baby does not develop your brain) and I know that if they want a shot at whatever career they have dreamed up, they would need to work twice as hard as the rest of them just to be on the playing field. I wager technology will play a large part on that playing field.

I’ll be honest, though, I’m not that tech-savvy. But I did have an iPhone and I let them learn how to use it on their own. And then my friend suggested I try to expose them to a little more than just that, and suggested IDEAco’s City X Project.

romanian-girl

We didn’t have all the resources we needed. For one, not a 3D printer in sight. Also, their brick-thick IBM laptops were not a match for online 3D design programs. That did not stop us, though, because one of the main things we learned through the City X Project was how to be creative problem solvers.

So, the workshop (including videos) is completely in English? We’ll act out the material in Romanian. Don’t have any clay to make a prototype? We’ll use pipe-cleaners.

It’s a very easy workshop to follow, but it is not restrictive. You can take what you find useful and build upon that and whatever you don’t need or don’t have, just leave it out. That’s been our creative experience.

What I found most amazing was how empowered the girls felt during the workshop. Sure, they were incredulous at first, “We’re not inventors. Other people do that!” I held up my iPhone and said, “Do you know who invented the iPhone?” They stared back at me with no answer. “An orphan.”

And with that they dreamed up different ways to pull out a loose tooth, reduce noise pollution, cross a river without a bridge, speed up travel, develop cures for new viruses, and grow fruits and vegetables without sunlight, among many other things that one day will be possible because someone thought that they could do it.

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