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

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).

Elizabeth Balint & Cris Doby will meet potential candidates for the U.S. Exchange in Romania and Hungary

Elizabeth Balint, GLC Project Manager and Cris Doby, U.S. Mentor and Project Advisor will be in Europe to meet with potential candidates of the U.S. exchange before the final selection. Applicants who submitted their paperwork in Hungary, Romania  by the November 15, 2014 deadline will have an opportunity to meet with them.

Meeting dates: November 28 or 29 in Hungary and December 2 or 3 in Bucharest. Please connect with the country directors for more information about the final date, time and location.

The selection of the Spring 2015 U.S. trip participants will be finalized before December 20, 2014 and we will start the J-1 visa process immediately.

Check here to apply for the Fellowship Exchange Program in U.S.

Short picture’s story from our fellows

On 12th of April our fellows safety arrived to their fellowship placement site in 9 states at 11 hosting organizations. Read some of their first actions/meetings and impressions:

Raluca Negulescu, Romania

My first day at the Granite State Organizing Project was delightful. I met a group of fantastic Latin-American women from Nashua and we discussed about the main issues in their community. In the evening, I attended a fundraising event – the 2nd Annual Spaghetti Supper organised by Holy Cross Family Learning Center in Manchester. I met the Mayor of the city and enjoyed a Bhutanese dance show.

Raluca Negulescu

Raluca Negulescu, Romania

Martin Klus, Slovakia

I had a “sharp start” here in Little Rock and today became part of very strong state-wide initiative within Arkansas State Congress and will be famous for couple of seconds even in local TV.

Martin Klus

Martin Klus, Slovakia

Dzhevid Mahmud, Bulgaria
Csaba and Dzhevid met with senator Kennedy in Brockton, Boston during interfaith community action meeting.

dzhevid mahmud

Dzhevid & Csaba

Simona Barbu, Romania

Two very interesting meetings today in Seattle, the first one at CASA LATINA, where the Care Council meet to discuss about the national updates on the law of immigration and the activities they prepare for the next period: on the 9th of May they will put together and action called Mothers Day in order to highlight the role of the mothers in immigration.

Later on, in the Industrial district (aka China Town) we had the opportunity to participate at the meeting of the coalition for preparing May Day in Seattle, a totally different concept that what we usually celebrate in Romania. May Day is the Immigrant’s Day and will be celebrated by marching on the main important boulevards of the city and organizing the members of the immigrant communities to participate.

Together with Kovács Tímea Éva , we’ll be peace keepers during the march on the 1st of May! We are looking forward to it!

simona barbu

Simona & Timea

Miroslav Ragac, Slovakia

Very successful day today! Our S.A.G.E group (Survivor Advocacy Group Empowered) met with several members of the Illinois House of Representatives in Springfield and they got their support and commitment to vote for SB 1872!!! Well done girls!!!

Miroslav Ragac

Miroslav Ragac, Slovakia