Ionela Maria Ciolan – fellow from Romania

Ionela Maria Ciolan
Bucharest, Romania

Ionela Ciolan is a first year Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at the National University for Political Studies and Public Administration, in Bucharest. She is currently researching on the European Neighborhood Policy in Eastern Europe and EU-Russia relations. In addition, to her academic work, Ms. Ciolan is also a Human Rights Activist and Educator in Romania. She is the initiator of the Volunteer Facilitators’ movement of Amnesty International in Romania and the founder and group leader of the first group of human rights activists for Amnesty in her country.

Since 2011, Ms. Ciolan has had organized 8 human rights campaigns with a reach of more than 8000 people in order to help them develop their basis in human rights and increase their participation as citizens in social and civil actions. In her work with Amnesty International in Romania, Ms. Ciolan is trying to change the hatred mentality, to educate Romanians to accept minorities, to be more tolerant and to further promote the idea of embracing our differences. She uses human rights education approaches to challenge stereotypes and usually works with young people.

Ms. Ciolan was involved in 3 international human rights campaigns focused on the rights of minorities: (1) “S.O.S. Europe, People before borders” – Amnesty International Third Human Rights Action Camp, a 9 days project designed to work on the immigrants’ issues and rights; (2) “Stop forced eviction of Roma in Romania” – international campaign which tried to appeal to the public to support the cause by asking the Romanian Prime-Minister to stop the forced evictions of Roma people from various communities in Romania and change the current legislation in this area; and (3) “My Body, My Rights”, which promotes the sexual and reproductive rights of women and LGBT people).

Bucharest, Romania
photo credit:

Ms. Ciolan has an experience of eight years as a volunteer in different local, regional, national and international NGOs and has interned at the European Institute of Romania and Foreign Policy magazine – Romanian branch.

Recently, she joined the cause of the Policy Center for Roma and Minorities in supporting the rights for safe and secure housing for Roma and other disadvantaged people from the Iacob Andrei street, Ferentari neighborhood in Bucharest, a ghetto type area where both Roma and non-Roma people live in extreme poverty. Together with the Center, Ms. Ciolan tries to stop forced evictions of the people from this street and help them organize as a community.

Throughout her five years of studying International Relations and European Studies, both during  Bachelor’s and Master’s programs, Ms. Ciolan have come to a great understanding of the international community, actors and events, in Europe, but also globally. Nevertheless, her biggest interest is focusing on the Central Eastern Europe (including Russia) and its relation with the EU. During her Erasmus mobility at the University of Bologna, Ms. Ciolan had the opportunity to study national political movements, civil society and democracy, community participation and social trust with prestigious professors across Europe. Moreover, she has successfully published 3 academic articles. All have appeared in peer-reviewed journals indexed in international data bases.

Ms. Ciolan is fluent in English, both written and spoken and has knowledge of Spanish, Italian and French.

Chicago, IL
photo: Emil Metodiev

This fellowship is her first opportunity to travel to the United States. During the fellowship experience in the U.S., Ms. Ciolan would like to learn new methods on how to empower people in minority communities and to see and understand the innovative approaches of the hosting organization. Also, she is very interested to learn more on community organizing and on developing local advocacy plans. Ms. Ciolan expects to gain new ideas, know-how and experience in dealing with both the affected groups and the authorities. She will use these skills in her activity at the Policy Center for Roma and Minorities, where she plans to have a very active advocacy projects in the support of the Roma community. she intends to use her work at Amnesty International Bucharest as a spring board for campaigns aimed at stopping forced eviction, by raising awareness of this issue at local and national level.

In her free time, Ms. Ciolan loves to cook and try new recipes. She enjoys reading about the impact of technology upon the international community.

Ionela will be having her internship at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless in Chicago together with Johanna Laszlo

Peter Petak – fellow from Hungary

Peter Petak
Pecs, Hungary

Peter Petak is working as a Leader of community workers at the Hungarian Association for Community Development, as well as at the Civil College Foundation. Both organizations focus on working with different disadvantaged groups like Roma, unemployed, disabled, and poor people. From 2010 he has been supporting community workers who work with marginalized social groups. His tasks include trainings and consultations, workshops and network organizing, both in countrywide programs and in programs focusing on areas of deep poverty in Eastern Hungary.

Mr. Petak was a founder of a successful and well known neighborhood NGO which represented the interests of the local community in the town of Pecs. He also organized civil coalitions and cooperations of NGO’s. He participated in developing and teaching the first officially recognized community organizer training in Hungary. His speciality area is the organization of campaigns for community issues.

Pecs, Hungary

Mr. Petak graduated with an MA from the University of Pecs, Faculty of Humanities in 1994, and he has completed studies as a Community Development Trainer at various institutions between 2003-2014.

This is his first opportunity to visit the United States. In the previous years, Mr. Petak has started to work intensively on community organizing, and he devoted much energy to the introduction and widespread adaptation of community organizing in Hungary. For this purpose, he would like to learn, gain experience and find partners in this exchange program.

Mr. Petak is a father of five boys, and in his free time, he enjoys making excursions with his family, and reading.

Peter will be having his internship at Virginia Organizing (Charlottesville, Virginia)



Dilyana Gyurova – fellow from Bulgaria

Dilyana Gyurova-Kyupeliyski
Sofia, Bulgaria

Dilyana (Diki) Gyurova is working for CONCORDIA Bulgaria Foundation in Sofia since it funded in 2008. Initially she worked as a Deputy Director and since 2012 as an Executive Director. Mrs. Gyurova is managing the overall work of the organization in Bulgaria starting from the pedagogical aspects and establishment of a certain organizational culture till networking, communication, budgeting and fundraising.

Mrs. Gyurova previous working experience is in the field of social work with elderly people, and also in national and international volunteering projects within the peace organization Service Civil International and its Bulgarian branch Cooperation for Voluntary Service.

CONCORDIA is an independent international organization that supports children, young people and partly elderly in Romania, in the Republic of Moldova and in Bulgaria. The social services in Sofia are provided to homeless young adults, to neglected children and their families, being about 90% from the Roma ethnic minority. Community organizing and support belong to the priorities of her organization CONCORDIA Bulgaria Foundation, so she and her team in Sofia are very interested in the exchange program and quite ambitious about the field work and its outcomes.

Alexander Nevski Cathedral, Sofia

Their target groups for the current social services are homeless young adults (very often former orphanage children) as well as children and families from several marginalized Roma communities in the city of Sofia – the districts Orlandovtzi and Malashevtzi with population of up to several hundred people and no official information as many of them don’t have a proper housing and thus also don’t have permanent addresses nor jobs. This is where also the future plans for Community organizing are focused with the main aim to support the Roma families so that they can provide better care and education to their own children and thus to achieve a smaller number of neglected children, school drop-outs etc. The field work is planned to be conducted in cooperation with mobile social workers’ teams of CONCORDIA and partner organizations acting in the particular districts and Dilyana finds this as very challenging and a great opportunity at the same time.

Keeper of the Plains Statue (Wichita, Kansas)
photo by: Jordan McAlister

Mrs. Gyurova holds two Masters’ Degree; first is in Social Work obtained at the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” and second – in Accounting and Controlling from the University for National and World economy in Sofia. Also Dilyana (or Diki as she is mostly known among fellow trainers and volunteers) has some experience as a non-formal education trainer in youth work, volunteering projects, human rights education and other topics, mostly gained from working with international youth groups. Her own long term volunteering project back in 2003 was also in the field of Human rights education in Germany. Apart from English, Mrs. Gyurova speaks German and in the last years she learned some basic Romanian. She has good knowledge of Russian and French too but unfortunately she doesn’t get many chances to practice.

Mrs. Gyurova has never visited the U.S. before. She is really excited about this learning opportunity. Some of the topics that are of greatest interest in the overall program of the Exchange are Organizational development, Direct action and Fundraising.

In her free time Mrs. Gyurova enjoys playing, cooking and drawing with her children as well as doing some Yogalates or karaoke singing.

Dilyana will be having her internship at Seed House (Wichita, Kansas) together with Claudia Popa and Monika Jurikova 

Monika Jurikova – fellow from Slovakia

Monika Jurikova
Bratislava, Slovakia 

Monika Jurikova is working as a Social worker in urban locality, where are the social welfare and social apartments. In this disadvantaged neighborhood live around 1500 people and around half of them are Roma with different social and economy status. Along with the total absence of any leisure and social services there is a room for development of many conflicts, social pathologies (crime, pollution, drug use, vandalism, …) and the tense atmosphere between different groups of population. Children and young people make up almost half the population of settlement. For many of them are leisure activities offered by other institutions outside the settlement unavailable (required regular attendance, active participation, distance, financial costs). Street becomes a meeting place, a place for leisure, sometimes a refuge, sometimes playground.

Bratislava, Slovakia

For several years Ms. Jurikova has been doing streetwork and preventative activities in club for teens. Before she worked in non-goverment organization that was focused on drug users. Later she was part of team who did preventative activities at school focused on harassment, violence and experimenting with drugs.

Wichita, Kansas

Ms. Jurikova studied at the Faculty of Education, Department of Social Education and she graduated with her Master’s Degree with specification Etopedie – emotional disturbances. During studies, she spent three summers in the U.S. with “Work and Travel program”.

Ms. Jurikova is communicative person, and except English she is able to speak in several Slavic languages, especial  Czech and Polish.

Ms. Jurikova is very excited to visit community projects in the United States. She wants to bring experience and new ideas to her project.

Ms. Jurikova enjoys travelling, meeting new people, learning new cultures. During freetime she enjoys all kind of sport, especial cycling, jogging, swimming, trekking and hiking.

Monika will be having her internship at Seed House (Wichita, Kansas) together with Claudia Popa from Romania and two more fellows.

International Friendship Night in Toledo

Intercultural Dinner in the Hungarian Club in Toledo with the first Fellows Delegation in 2012

Please join the Great Lakes Consortium for International Training and Development in welcoming a 22-member Professional Fellows delegation from Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.
Enjoy the Pot-luck dinner – by bringing a dish to share!
This multicultural event is free and open to the public.
Seats are limited, please make a reservation by calling Elizabeth Balint at 419-973-8007 or send an e-mail to

5:00PM Social Hour with Silent Auction to raise money for GLC’s international goodwill projects

6:00PM Welcome & Pot-luck dinner

6:45PM Introduction of the international guests

Recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Toledo-Szeged Sister City relationship and welcome the guests from Szeged, Hungary –by Ann Galloway, President of the Toledo-Szeged Committee

Short presentations by two media representatives: Szilvia Suri from Hungary and Cristinela Ionescu from Romania about the minority life and issues.

Announcements of upcoming events and international projects

This delegation’s visit in the U.S. from April 19- June 5, 2015 is sponsored by the U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Professional Fellows Division as part of “Sustaining Civic Participation in Minority Communities in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and U.S.A.”.
This program is presented in collaboration with the Hungarian Club of Toledo, Toledo-Szeged Committee, and WSOS Community Action Commission Inc.

Claudia Popa – spring fellow from Romania

Claudia Popa currently is Manager of Colors Association, a small Romanian NGO founded in 2008 that aims to develop individuals and their communities to meet the challenges of now-a-days life, implementing mainly educational, cultural and youth projects and activities for children, youngsters and seniors from Brasov and Sibiu Counties and promoting voluntary work as the main tool for personal and community development.

Having more than 3000 beneficiaries every year, Ms. Popa has been actively involved in developing new activities for Roma children, persons with disabilities or socially disadvantaged, etc. For instance, during 2015, together with her team, she is going to develop a new visual arts program for 400 Roma children from Garcini neighborhood in Brasov County, with the support of EEA Grants. Organizing members of the community, being a leader or generating ideas are skills that Ms. Popa has been practicing since primary school. During the years she has added lots of others – e.g. being a trainer or communicator, using technology and social media etc.

Ms. Popa has started her NGO career as a youth volunteer for Brasov Branch of the Romanian Red Cross during her University studies in 1998. Between 2001 and 2008 she has worked as a Manager for the Sibiu Branch of the same organization.

Brasov /foto: Iulian/

foto by Iulian

In these years Ms. Popa has created new innovative programs for different minority groups and not only and been a part of the national teams that created the youth leadership system and the communication strategy for the organization. In the same time here she learnt how to organize volunteers and beneficiaries and mobilize resources to meet different needs and solve problems.

Ms. Popa has a BA in Economics and International Transactions from the Transylvania University, Faculty of Economics in Brasov (Romania 2001). She is a Postgraduate in Fundraising from the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj Napoca (Romania 2009). Ms. Popa also took part in Participatory Capacity Development Program organized by German Red Cross between 2004-2005, and in a training in advocacy organized by Grasp/USAID in 2003. She has qualifications as a trainer, youth worker, HR and project manager and extensive experience in PR and non-formal education.

Ms. Popa is a native Romanian speaker and C1 level English (speaking, understanding, writing, and reading). She has also basic German knowledge, and she can understand and speak a bit of French, Spanish and Portuguese (due to similarities with Romanian and/or practical international work).

Wichita, Kansas

This is going to be her first visit to the U.S. With the support of this fellowship Ms. Popa would like to be more efficient in mobilizing and empowering people, and resources from her community in addressing the problems that they have and to see practical examples from civic organizations in the United States.

She is going to use her knowledge and skills in strengthening Colors and other NGO’s that she works with in both Brasov and Sibiu to be able to solve problems. Her field work is going to be in Garcini neighborhood (part of Sacele, a town close to Brasov), target group being the Roma youngsters. She has already done different activities for children in this community and she is interested in extending them to youngsters as well, with the support of local partners.

Ms. Popa special interests are youngsters and topics like leadership, campaign planning (e.g. empowerment) and fundraising. Her hobbies are sports (swimming), blogging, photography, travelling and meeting new people.

Claudia will have her internship at Seed House (Wichita, Kansas).

Johanna Laszlo – spring fellow from Hungary

Johanna Laszlo works as a Program Manager at the Hungarian Anti-Poverty Network (HAPN) 10-year-old NGO, which aim is to support the interest representation and democratic social participation of people experiencing poverty. Ms. Laszlo’s task is to organize campaigns related to income poverty by activating people experiencing poverty (unemployed people, homeless people or people with instable housing, Roma people) and their potential allies (citizens, scolars, students, formal and informal groups). She is also the contact person between EAPN and HAPN as a member of EAPN’s operative subgroup called EUISG (European Union Inclusion Strategic Group). Besides her job at HAPN she is also a volunteer at Kontur Association which is an organization dedicated to social inclusion – currently working at Hős Str. Budapest, a Roma settlement of the capital city.

As a countrywide network and an umbrella organization HAPN has various membership including both individuals and NGOs. HAPN is also a member of the European Anti-Poverty Network which is the umbrella organization of the the same issues on a European level. The target group of HAPN is people experiencing poverty which is a multi-layered group characterized by several features such as social status (unemployment, homelessness), age (child poverty, poverty of elderly people) and ethnicity (Roma people, immigrants).

foto by: Maurice

Ms. Laszlo has an MA Degree in Social Work at the ELTE Faculty of Social Sciences, and also she is a Ph.D. student majoring in Social Work and Social Politics (ELTE Faculty of Social Sciences). During her studies for 3 years she was a volunteer at the ELTE University program dedicated to the inclusion of young people with a criminal record where the Roma youth were overrepresented. As a student she was a Social Worker trainee at the Office of Justice, Budapest working with young offenders.

Ms. Laszlo also had working practice at the Family Welfare Centre (XV. district, Budapest) and in Denmark at an NGO called KVINFO’s Mentor network working with mentoring immigrant women. As a Ph.D. student Ms. Laszlo spent one semester at Freie University (Berlin, Germany) studying social movements and direct actions. Besides her university studies Ms. Laszlo finished various trainings related to the field of social work such as the training of Kompania Foundation about how to facilitate a peer-group of teenagers having problems with aggression, self-esteem, drugs to be able to change, and community work.

Chicago, IL /© 1999 EyeWire, Inc./Before her current job at HAPN, Ms. Laszlo formerly worked for the Regional Social Welfare Resource Centre in Budapest (organization dedicated to social innovations) and as a Freelance Expert in projects doing project coordinating, working with groups as a Social worker, developing training materials, mentoring, providing trainings for high school children. She taught at ELTE Faculty of Social Sciences in the MA education of social workers. As an activist it is very important for her to improve her knowledge in organizing. She was one of the founders of Uj Szemlelet (New Approach), a non-formal action group of social workers which was active at the beginning of the 2010s by organizing campaigns focusing on social justice.

Ms. Laszlo’s mother tongue is Hungarian, and she is fluent in English using it as a working language too.

Ms. Laszlo has never been in the U.S. Working at HAPN she is specially interested in the work of networks focusing on oppressed people whether this oppression is caused by poverty, ethnicity or both. As a structural social problem she finds it crucial to look at poverty as a macro-level, societal problem rather than an individual and avoid labeling but support by empowering. Community organizing can provide a wide choice of tools for this empowerment.

In her spare time Ms. Laszlo loves walking and reading.

Johanna Laszlo will have her internship at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.


Kirilka Angelova – spring fellow from Bulgaria

From today on we will present you each of our Spring Fellow, selected to attend the Professional Fellowship Exchange Program of Great Lakes Consortium, funded by U.S. State Department.

Here we are presenting you Kirilka Angelova from Bulgaria.

Kirilka Angelova is a group dynamic Trainer and Expert in an Assessment Center, and Trainer on Entrepreneurship and Human rights. She has 8 years of experience as a trainer. From 2008 she is a part of the EVENTTEAM, a profit company that is specialized in delivering trainings and developing people’s skills. She has long history of developing people’s skills from different structures, including business and governmental.

The topics she has strong expertise are: communication skills, building and developing teams, negotiation, conflict management, personal and professional development, motivation, leadership, organizational development, entrepreneurship and human rights.

Mrs. Angelova is born and raised in Yakoruda, located in the south of Bulgaria. Since 1999 she is living in Sofia.

Mrs. Angelova is also engaged in non-profit sector. She works as a Business volunteer very close with Junior Achievement Bulgaria (JAB), who honored her with the title “Business Volunteer of the Year”. One of her biggest achievement within this organization is that she succeeded to trained primary school teachers from across the country in entrepreneurship. This was recognized as the best educational project in EU in 2012.

Mrs. Angelova also is part of a Mentor program under the same organization, and she works closely with high school students, mentoring them. For the last three years the students she works with are in top six within the competition “Raising Stars”. In 2014 she was invited to work as an external trainer of Dorea Educational Institute based in Cyprus and as a an expert and external trainer of National Association of Foster Care in Bulgaria.

Mrs. Angelova is engaged with C.E.G.A. Foundation for past 4 years. She attended several of their events; in 2012 she was selected as an External Trainer within the international project CHARM (Civic Help for Anti-Racist Measures). Through this experience she became very sensitive about Human Rights, youth from minorities and generally about the diversity among people. The project’s activities include several seminars & trainings, exchange of experience, cross-border cooperation and consultancy.

photo: Boby Dimitrov

The main idea of the project is to challenge youth organizations dealing with various issues (environment, charity, youth political participation, arts, leisure, etc.) to explore their contribution in building tolerant Europe and to mainstream anti-racist awareness in their work. This long-term project gave her huge experience and enough sense to challenge her perspective and opened her eyes for things she was not seeing before. Since then she started to get more aware of minority issues and always in her trainings with the students she is trying to raise their positive attitude towards diversity.

Mrs. Angelova has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Business Administration. She has 2 terms to graduate with her Master’s Degree in Leadership and Management at the Bulgarian New University. She attended several trainings in fields of Entrepreneurship, supersu binary apk Project Management, Human Rights, and Global Education. She also completed a training of the trainers on Human Rights, and has great computer knowledge. She is fluent in English.

Mrs. Angelova is very motivated person, who never stops to seek opportunities and to fight the life. She is a conscientious person who works hard and pays attention to detail. She is flexible, quick to pick up new skills and eager to learn from others. Mrs. Angelova never stops searching for new ideas, never stop learning, and never stop looking for new opportunities. Trainer with more than 8 years’ experience, professional, who really love the job and the field, human who inspires others, team player and leader.

Mrs. Angelova believes that the Professional Fellowship Exchange Program will give her knowledge and skills, which will improve her work with people in needs and minority groups. It is her first trip to the United States, and she is very keen to learn as much as possible regarding the cultural, the life and habits that Americans.

In her free time Mrs. Angelova enjoys playing basketball, hiking in the mountains, enjoys time with her family and beloved kid, daughter Martina, who is 3 years old.