Maria Magdalena Ilie – fellow from Romania

Maria Magdalena Ilie

Bucharest, Romania

Maria Magdalena Ilie works as a Social Program Coordinator in the business sector, being responsible with the development of the social department of the company and Corporate Social Responsibility-CSR related activities. She is also working in a Romanian national NGO, where she holds the position as President (The Romanian Association for Community Support and Initiative). The NGO is focusing on community work and the development of grass-roots organizations and local initiative groups.

Part of this activity is working with a local NGO (The Saint Stephen Association). This NGO focuses on a disadvantaged community and serves a number of over 100 persons per month delivering social services through a large spectrum of social services from Day Center to awareness programs on specific issues identified in the community. Ms. Ilie’s role is to engage with the youth and develop social services starting from the needs identified by them and related with their minority background. There is a large number of Roma youngsters who experience exclusion, bulling, marginalization and these are directly influencing their performances in school and also their participation in the community. Ms. Ilie’s main goal is to give these youngsters o voice and a way of expressing, integrating and activate in their community and society.

Memorial of Rebirth,Bucharest, Romania
photo: Nico Trinkhaus

With over 10 years experience in the NGO field, Ms. Ilie accomplished a lot in the field of inclusion and community work facilitating the access and participation of different vulnerable groups, such as: people with disabilities, unemployed, youth, Roma, seniors, prisoners, etc. She was key expert in a number of European Strategic Projects implemented in Romania in partnerships with other organizations from Austria, Germany, Hungary and Republic of Moldova. She also was engaged in organizing and coordination of large awareness events and professional gatherings (e.g. The International Conference in Social Work, 2010, The South-East Conference in Social Work, 2009), but also smaller community events focusing on specific issues (e.g. Christmas Fair – fundraising and community participation event – December, 2014).

Ms. Ilie was the youth leader of the Romanian group in an exchange program and united 5 countries and more than 20 youngsters in a multicultural environment, involving the teams in promoting human values as: acceptance, leadership and positive engagement.

Ms. Ilie has a Master’s Degree in Social Anthropology and Community Development at the Bucharest University, Faculty of Sociology and Social Work, and numbers of trainings in the field of project coordination, training of trainers and volunteer work with minority groups (e.g. Roma community and youth with disabilities). The most notable experience was being a volunteer in Ireland, Dublin and working with a community of travelers from Finglas community a disadvantaged area from Dublin 15 district.

Ms. Ilie is proficient in English. She has developed a platform in English, where she is writing about social change and social activism with powerful global impact (

Ms. Ilie strongly believes in the community role of addressing and solving the most pressure problems, and this is her strongest point in wanting to participate in the fellowship program. She believes in practice work and models and empowerment that come from the people who deal with the same problem.

Chicago, IL

Ms. Ilie visited the United States before as a tourist. She never had the chance to see how the people deal with real issues and how the organizations and institutions get involved and help them solve the problems. She believes that this could be the appropriate model in engaging stakeholders in Romania. The U.S. government did not support her previous visit to the U.S.

There are few local opportunities for Roma youngsters. She believes that the U.S. organizations could provide best practice models and interaction with professionals from this field in order to apply and develop programs aimed to encourage and increase youth participation. Her focus is on designing and developing programs for Roma youngsters. The group she is addressing during her fieldwork in Romania is a group of youngsters who experience specific issues related with xenophobia, bullying, and exclusion. Ms. Ilie has a long-term involvement in this community, as this is also part of the work with the local organization she is supporting in developing social services, through trainings, fundraising activities and capacity building activities.

Ms. Ilie is very involved in outdoor and educational activities for children, as a parent. She is taking piano lessons, as she enjoys music. She also is interested in multicultural communication, organizational development and self-development.

Maria Magdalena will have her internship at Jane Addams Senior Caucus (Chicago)

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