Retired British policeman, Ian Tilling, went to Romania to help children and women in need. His nonprofit Casa Ioana is a place where women and children can go to feel safe and learn how to rebuild their lives. Ian was so inspired and pleased with the impact and success of his efforts, he never left Romania. Here is his story from the The Christian Science Monitor.
World People Making a Difference
By Kit Gillet, Correspondent
Bucharest, Romania — It’s been a journey to Romania of a quarter-century-and-counting for Ian Tilling. During that time he has been instrumental in setting up long-term shelters in Bucharest, the capital, initially for orphans, later for the homeless, and later still for families suffering from domestic abuse.
Casa Ioana, which he founded 20 years ago, recently opened a second night shelter in Bucharest, where women and children can go to feel safe and start to rebuild their lives. The charity is also about to roll out a series of courses to help recovering women develop job skills.
“Without a job the chances of changing the situation [for these women] is quite remote. The only way out really is through employment,” says Mr. Tilling, sitting in the historic Old Town neighborhood in the heart of downtown Bucharest.
Recommended: 11 quotes from difference makers
Tilling, a retired police detective from England, first came to Romania after seeing disturbing televised images of institutionalized children that were broadcast around the world following the Romanian revolution in December 1989.
“My wife asked me if I had seen the pictures coming out of Romania, the awful images of children languishing in orphanages,” says Tilling, explaining his first glimpse of the country that would come to dominate his life.
Within six weeks he and a British nurse had gathered up supplies and were driving across Europe in a borrowed van filled with donated baby food, diapers, toys, and medicine. They ended up at an orphanage called Plataresti, a “hellhole 40 minutes drive outside Bucharest,” Tilling recalls.
At Plataresti, Tilling was asked to help with a group of twenty 7- to- 9-year-olds who lived together in one room. Their cots were lined up 10 on each wall “like a row of prison cells” and the children never left them, he says. Most were still being bottle fed. The smell was awful. Tilling was tasked with talking with the children and keeping them clean, neither an easy task.
“For the month I was working there I was numb,” he says. Yet during the drive back across the Continent to Britain he decided he must go back to Romania. A little while later he did return, this time with 298 other people and a convoy of 100 trucks with supplies.
At the time of his first visit Tilling had been coming to the end of a long police career and wondering what to do next.
“I joined the police at 16 as a cadet. It was all I knew,” he says. He was living in the south of England with his wife and four children. Then in 1991 his eldest son, just 19, died in a motorbike accident and Tilling’s life fell apart.
In 1992 he took early retirement and moved to Romania to run a British charity he had established to provide lifelong care to some of the children from Plataresti.
“Looking back I was clearly escaping the hurt I felt back home,” he says.
However, rather than helping to heal his pain the project proved to be a nightmare itself, with the Romanian government breaking promises and officials demanding bribes. He was left trying to manage a small apartment block in Ferentari, a district of Bucharest that was fast becoming a ghetto inhabited primarily by desperately poor Roma (commonly called Gypsy) families.
“It was all unraveling, and my personal demons were coming to the front, and I was having to deal with that, too,” Tilling says.
In the winter of 1994-95 he lived with 300 Roma families in a collection of dilapidated apartment buildings. To top it off his marriage was breaking up.
“It was the lowest point in my life, but I was fortunate in that I finished my grieving process,” he says today.
Near the end of that winter friends gathered to urge him to leave, even going so far as collecting money for his plane ticket. But he didn’t want to return to England defeated. Instead he regrouped, creating a new charity – a Romanian one – that would pick up where the British charity had left off.
Casa Ioana was born. Over the next few years it became a halfway house for formerly institutionalized young adults and a resource center that helped local organizations set up a school for children with profound disabilities, as well as a kindergarten for local Roma families.
In 1997 Tilling was approached by the mayor of Bucharest with a request to open a night shelter for homeless men, who had become a growing problem in the city. He eventually agreed after the mayor offered to supply a building to house the shelter.
It opened as an emergency shelter for homeless men. But after a few years Tilling noticed the large number of women who came looking for a place to stay together with their children.
Recognizing that the system was failing these families at a time when they needed to keep together he refocused his efforts. Today, Casa Ioana is the largest provider of temporary shelter for survivors of domestic abuse in Bucharest. “I do what I do out of a profound sense of justice,” he says. “I hate to see people suffering.”
Those who know Tilling say he works day and night. “He is a one-man tornado,” says Nigel Bell, a British expatriate businessman who volunteers his time and expertise to Casa Ioana. “He tries to do everything himself; it is absolutely personal to him.”
Despite having the title of president of Casa Ioana, Tilling is often found painting the walls or cleaning the toilets.
Women and children who arrive at the shelters are left alone for the first few weeks. When they are ready they sit down with members of his team, which includes psychologists working pro bono, to develop a plan for moving forward.
Families can stay for as long as a year but Tilling says the vast majority move on within six to eight months. The women get jobs and are able to afford their own places, he says.
Casa Ioana perpetually faces challenges of space and money. It has room for 20 families and nine single women; last year it had to turn away 200 families. “We simply didn’t have room,” Tilling says.
His charity has a budget of about $100,000 a year; 80 percent of its funding comes from private donors and 20 percent from the Romanian government. It employs six staff members. Tilling himself takes no salary and lives on his British pension.
“Ian keeps us together. He brings people in from outside, and he opens the right doors,” says Monica Breazu, one of the social workers employed at Casa Ioana.
Parts of Romania are very traditional, and domestic abuse is often swept under the rug. Women who break away from abusive relationships and end up at Casa Ioana are likely to have been almost completely reliant financially on their husbands.
“Many haven’t got high school diplomas, and without that they can’t access formal training,” Tilling says. “So we created the opportunity for them to return to school. We give them the equivalent of a minimum salary in order to study.” Casa Ioana is also developing a financial-literacy program and six other courses that cover what employers will be looking for from new hires.
Tilling’s journey has never been easy. In 1998 the first Casa Ioana was ransacked by outsiders; everything was stolen right down to the fixtures and electrical wiring. “There were many occasions when I was close to saying enough is enough,” he says. “I’ve invested so much of myself. The good thing was I literally had nothing to go back to, so that was a good incentive to persevere.”
In 2000 Tilling was honored with an MBE from Queen Elizabeth II, shortly after Prince Charles visited Casa Ioana. Two years later he was awarded Romania’s equivalent.
Tilling knows that eventually he’ll have to pass the responsibility for Casa Ioana along to someone else. But it appears that it isn’t going to be anytime soon.
How to take action
Universal Giving helps people give to and volunteer for top-performing charitable organizations around the world. All the projects are vetted by Universal Giving; 100 percent of each donation goes directly to the listed cause. Below are links to groups that help children worldwide:
- Globe Aware helps people and communities prosper without becoming dependent on outside aid. Take action: Volunteer to work helping the underprivileged in Romania.
- Eastern Congo Initiative works with the people of eastern Congo, where local, community-based approaches are creating a sustainable society. Take action: Support access to education for girls in eastern Congo.
- Half the Sky Foundation enriches the lives of orphans in China, offering loving, family-like care. Every orphaned child should have a caring adult in his or her life. Take action: Help a teen in Half the Sky’s youth services program.
MovingWorlds.org co-founder Mark Horoszowski manages the global platform connecting people who volunteer on worthwhile projects around the world. Mark recently wrote this great article on volunteering which appeared in his blog and in The Huffington Post.
Good for the World, Good for You – This Infographic Shows How Volunteering Can Help You Find and Get Your Dream Job
Finding and earning your dream job is no easy journey, but it turns out that doing good for the world might be your golden ticket.
Over the past few years, we’ve spoken with hundreds of volunteers, hiring managers, recruiters, and career coaches to explore the theory that volunteering can help people get their dream job in any sector: public, private, or non-profit. We’ve complimented our qualitative stories with quantitative research to show that volunteering helps you at all the main steps of your career path:
- Identifying your passions and career calling
- Building critical skills and making your resume stand out
- Helping you ace the interview and hiring process
Our team is incredibly eager to show this research as it represents a true win-win: Some of the biggest challenges facing this earth are skills-related challenges, meanwhile people benefit by contributing their skills to global issues.
“No matter the position I’m interviewing for, I look specifically for volunteer experience – it shows me that the person has passion, thinks beyond him/herself, and has the ability to take initiative. In short, it shows me the person will be a better team member.” – Mary M, Leadership Development Professional at Fortune 50 Company
In summary, our research shows that people should be pickier about the way they engage in volunteering by making sure their time and talents are actually needed – not just their physical presence. In fact, we found that volunteers are more engaged, deliver more value to organizations, and stay longer if they donate their real talents as opposed to their muscles. In doing so, they also tend to experience “career enlightenment”.
However, there appears to be a right and wrong way to both volunteer AND communicate your experience on your resume, LinkedIn profile, and cover letter. The following infographic shows you why and how volunteering your skills, especially on a dedicated project like an international volunteering trip, can help you find and get your dream job. It is also full of useful tips about how to choose a project and how to talk about your volunteer experience during the interview process for public, private, or governmental jobs.
Volunteering Can Help You Identify Your Dream Job
Beyond helping you understand your strengths, being purposeful about your volunteer work can also help you learn more about specific industries, gain experience working on different types of teams, and gain exposure to what it’s like to work inside different sizes of organizations. The combination of these can help you refine what and where your dream job is. In fact, 95% of career advisers agreed that volunteering “brings clarity to the job search”, and 76% strongly agreed that it made you “more likely to get your dream job”.
“If you’re thinking of making a career change years down the road, consider volunteering now to lay a foundation for the future. It helps you identify your real strengths, build a bigger network, and explore what truly motivates you. You’ll look back and be glad you had the foresight to plan early.” – Brad Waters, Founder of Brad Waters Coaching and Consulting
There is a great article in the Harvard Business Review that hits to the theory as to why this is true: Profession and Purpose
Volunteering Can Improve Your Resume and Help You Stand Out
This was one of the most interesting areas in our research… We found that most recruiters spend less than 60 seconds looking at a resume, and experienced recruiters spend even less – one recruiter shared that she spends less than 30 seconds per resume. Only 30.4% felt that candidates with international skills-based volunteering experience stand out.
So what do they look for? They focus their few seconds of attention on REAL work experience that tells a “cohesive story” about why you are applying for a job and deserve to get it. While recruiters tend to agree that volunteering makes you a more interesting candidate (54%), the slight majority DO NOT look specifically for it.
In other words, while recruiters don’t look for volunteer experience, our research hints that if it is communicated the right way, it makes your resume “stand out”. However, one anonymous recruiter told us that “a resume with too much volunteer experience is a negative thing if the person is applying for a for-profit company, even if that company has a history of good social responsibility”.
Recruiters did agree that there is a “best” way to position your volunteer experience, and it’s probably not what you expect.
“If you have completed meaningful projects, include it as real work experience, not in a ‘volunteer or interest’ section. Call it ‘Pro Bono consulting’ and articulate the situation, task, action, and result – just as you would a normal job.” – Katie Kross, author of Profession and Purpose
Your skills-based volunteer experience should help you round out your resume and tell a recruiter that you have the skills and experience needed for it, as well as a passion for the industry. As an example, if you are a finance professional looking to get into the tech industry, like Google, volunteering finance skills at a tech nonprofit or a tech startup can help show your passion for tech. Or, perhaps you’re a program manager at a tech company and want to get into global development at the Gates Foundation. In this second case, having volunteered overseas for an extended length of time with a similar type of beneficiary organization will prove that you have the skills and field experience to earn a position.
Volunteering Can Help You While You Interview
We were pleasantly surprised by the number of managers that get excited when candidates have real volunteer experience – 66% specifically look for it and strongly value it. Similar to career advisers and recruiters, they agreed that “day of labor” style volunteering didn’t add much value. Instead they emphasized that people who engaged in skills-based projects for a specific cause “stood out as more interesting candidates because they are likely to be better team members”.
“International experience (of any kind, personal or professional) leads to a greater life experience, which then leads to a greater awareness of needs. In my experience, candidates who have these things then have a greater ability to innovate.” – Harry Weiner, Co-founder and Partner at On-Ramps
Similar to on your resume, volunteer work is only interesting it if demonstrates that you took initiative and delivered meaningful results. Anecdotally, we also feel that managers value volunteering for another reason – many felt that it involved “transferring skills to others”, and this resonated as being very valuable as it showed you had prior experience with coaching and developing others.
Why is Volunteering Experience Valued so Highly?
Along the entire candidate screening and hiring journey, volunteering your skills simply shows that you take initiative, are more selfless, and truly value your professional skills. Managers equate this to mean that you are more likely to be a better team member and deliver results.
“In every situation – from financial to creative positions – I look at a candidate’s volunteer history. It’s a good indication of their passion, leadership and problem solving abilities.” – Julian Lorentz, Owner at Awakening Visuals
Indeed, we saw that managers agreed or strongly agreed that skills-based volunteering, especially in international environments, was a great way to develop skills needed to succeed:
- Collaboration: 93.8%
- Communication: 97%
- Emotional Intelligence (EQ): 89.3%
- Grit: 80%
- Innovation: 70%
- Leadership: 90.3%
- Problem Solving: 90.3%
However, managers were quick to note that “not all volunteer experiences are created equal”. First and foremost, managers are most interested “in finding quality people with demonstrated skills… volunteering doesn’t automatically mean you are either of these. It has to be the right type of volunteering project”.
An Important Caveat
As an organization with a mission of accelerating the impact of changemakers around the world, we would like to add the caveat that volunteering should be approached as selflessly as possible. Our research should not be used to motivate people to volunteer just for the sake of professional gain… In fact, our research shows that people should start their volunteering endeavor by auditing their skills, formalizing their goals, and then searching for an organization that specifically needs their skills. Groups like MovingWorlds, Catchafire, and LinkedIn For Good can all help you find the perfect placement. Done improperly, volunteering your skills might make your resume look better, but it can harm the organization you are trying to support.
In fact, a notable number of respondents felt that volunteering did NOT even belong on your resume at all and were quick to add comments that if they felt volunteer experiences were engaged only for professional gain, it would negatively impact the candidate.
Our research shows that volunteering can indeed help you in all steps of your career journey, from identifying your passion to standing out in the hiring process regardless of your career ambitions. However, volunteer experience doesn’t automatically launch you past other candidates, and in fact, it can even detract from your resume. One of the senior level managers we spoke with best summarized this point when he shared that
“When I’m looking for someone to join my team, the recipe is actually pretty simple… I want the person to have the required skills, I want to know the person has passion for our company and industry, and I want proof that the person will be an effective team member and the potential to be a long-term contributor, and hopefully, a leader… the right type of volunteer experience can help with all of those, especially the latter, but it’s not a replacement for job experience… it’s more of an icing on the cake situation. But when you’re looking for the best cake, icing is pretty @%&$ important!”
It is our contention that in this globally-connected and competitive job market, the more connections you’ve made, skills you’ve practiced, and experiences you have, the more you stand out. And, considering some of the world’s biggest challenges are propagated by a lack of access to skills, we also live in a time when doing good for the world can help you get ahead, and is good for your health, too!
If you have additional insights on the topic or care about it, we’d love to talk to you. Find us on Twitter or contact us.
This post originally appeared on the MovingWorlds blog and is reposted with permission.
This page contains materials from The Huffington Post and/or other third party writers. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (“PwC”) has not selected or reviewed such third party content and it does not necessarily reflect the views of PwC. PwC does not endorse and is not affiliated with any such third party. The materials are provided for general information purposes only, should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors, and PwC shall have no liability or responsibility in connection therewith.
UniversalGiving™, a website that helps people give and volunteer with the top-performing projects all over the world, is recognizing the International Day of the African Child and some of the better projects and volunteer vacation facilitators.
UniversalGiving Celebrates International Day of the African Child
On June 16th, 1976, about ten thousand schoolchildren marched in Soweto, South Africa to protest the poor quality of education they were receiving, as well as to demand the right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of these young children were shot, simply for daring to believe that they deserved better.
The International Day of the African Child (DAC) is a holiday taking place on June 16th that seeks to commemorate the children who died in Soweto, recognize the complex needs of African children, and reaffirm a commitment to protect their rights. This year, the theme of DAC is “25 Years After the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa.”
UniversalGiving celebrates DAC to ensure that the needs and rights of African children are protected and respected. Today, many children in Africa are suffering every day from a lack of food, healthcare, education, and other basic human rights.
Celebrate International Day of the African Child by donating to or volunteering with one of UniversalGiving’s top-quality partner organizations committed to bettering the lives of children in Africa. UniversalGiving offers a wide selection of thoroughly vetted, highly trustworthy organizations to choose from. You can rest assured that all of the organizations on our website have been held to the highest standards of quality, transparency, and trust, and 100% of donations made through UniversalGiving go directly to the cause. So go ahead–do your part for these children, and check out one of our Top Projects, Top Gift Packages, or Top Volunteer Opportunities!
Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI). ECI’s partner, HEAL Africa, is a specialized hospital in Goma that has provided healthcare to the population of Eastern Congo since 1994. ECI’s maternal health and child health initiatives have boosted the quality of life for many children of Congo. Recently, heavy fighting outside of Goma has increased the need for health care in Congo; now, more than ever, these children need your help. Your donation of $25 goes to delivering medical supplies to wounded civilians.
Develop Africa. Funding this Develop Africa project will help provide lifesaving serum to patients infected with ebola in Sierra Leone–many of whom are children. A $25 donation to this project will fund the purchase and shipment of one FDA approved machine which will help create the Convalescent Serum. Just $25 could save a life from ebola–too many lives have already been lost.
Top Gift Packages
Develop Africa. Many facilities in African schools have not caught up to the information age, making it difficult for children to receive the training and knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world. Develop Africa is providing computer training to empower African students and equip them with the tools they need to thrive. $50 will sponsor training in basic computer skills and office application for young African students.
World Food Program USA. It is estimated that 66 million students around the world go to school hungry. The World Food Program USA provides essential school meals to children, feeding their bodies so that they can grow their minds. School meals can also provide incentive for families to send their children to school, so these families no longer have to worry about feeding their hungry children during the day. These meals can lift entire communities out of poverty– your $50 gift could save a life and promote education in poverty-ridden communities of Africa.
Top Volunteer Opportunities
Globe Aware. Volunteers with Globe Aware will travel to the Imizamo Yethu township of South Africa, where they will assist in numerous projects including improving pre-school care centers, refurbishing the Community Youth Center, and participating in school sports lessons. Traveling to South Africa and engaging with this unique community is sure to be an incredible and rewarding experience.
The Global Volunteer Network Foundation (GVN). GVN has many enriching volunteer opportunities in Uganda, where participants will help provide primary and secondary education for needy children. GVN volunteers will be able to provide crucial love, affection, support, and education to orphaned or abandoned Ugandan children who desperately need help. Working with these children is sure to irrevocably change your life for the better–and their lives, too.