Open World Program Brings Romanian Educators to Kansas City

“What would you do if hundreds of refugees started knocking on your doors overnight? They don’t speak your language, and very few people in your community can communicate with them.” This question is defining the education system in Romania, where the school system is being inundated with Ukrainian refugee’s fleeing conflict. There is no notice of their arrival and the school system was not prepared with the proper resources, teachers, or training to effectively navigate this crisis.

To assist the Romanian education system in answering these questions, the Congressional Office for International Leadership proposed bringing over three cohorts of Romanian teachers and administrators to exchange ideas with American schools and NGO’s. Global Ties KC had the pleasure of hosting one of these cohorts, and from August 12-20, these delegates met with 13 professional resources, stayed with three amazing host families, and dove head-first into the process.

Our cohort consisted of five amazing delegates who are on the front lines of the refugee crisis:

  • Daniel Cergan, Director of the oldest school in Bucharest. His school has had over 120 Ukrainian refugees arrive since the Russian invasion. His school is one of three main hubs for Ukrainian refugees in Bucharest.
  • Larisa Gojnete, Director of Communications for the Bucharest School Inspectorate. She is responsible for handling communications for a district of over 480,000 students. She also has the unenviable task of assigning Ukrainian refugees to schools in Bucharest.
  • Liliana Cebotari, an English teacher in Berbesti, a town in southwest Romania. She is one of the few teachers in the country that speaks fluent Russian, and is helping craft Romanian as a Second Language programs.
  • Daniela Ceredeev, a teacher and school inspector in Sucaeva County, an area adjacent to the Ukrainian border. This is an area hit the hardest with Ukrainian refugees.
  • Eliza Chirila-Pop, the facilitator for the group, works as the country director for American Councils in Romania.

While in Kansas City, the delegates met with tons of great resources. The schools they met with include: Olathe Public Schools, the KCPS International Welcome Center, KCK Public Schools, Topeka Public Schools, Corpus Christi Catholic School, Shawnee Mission Public Schools, the UMKC Applied Language Institute and El Centro. In addition, they met with a great group of NGO’s: Della Lamb Community Services, Welcoming KC, KC for Refugees, and Jewish Vocational Services. The delegates also had the chance to speak with a Trauma expert at the Olathe campus of K-State University.

While this week was jam packed with professional meetings, we found some time to fit a little bit of fun as well. The delegates got on the jumbotron at a Royals game, wandered the halls of the Nelson-Atkins, visited the Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site, walked up to the dome of the Kansas State Capitol, and got to explore the Ethnic Enrichment Festival.

It was by all accounts a busy week! However, it was a week the delegates will not soon forget. The professional meetings expanded the perspectives of both the delegates and their American counterparts. The question that led off this piece, what would you do in my situation, was answered a lot of different ways. Ideas about different technologies, teaching strategies, and refugee support systems were all laid on the table. The delegates eagerly scribbled notes about these things, but every meeting had one thing in common. Right after this question was asked, every American in the room sat back in their chair and replied, “That’s a hard one, we’ve never been in that situation.” While the delegates will undoubtedly return to Romania and implement the tools they picked up in America, every American was forced to ponder the magnitude of the situation in Romania, and come to the conclusion that there is no easy solution.

Global Ties KC wants to thank every resource that met with these amazing delegates and shared your thoughts and ideas! You are playing a part in addressing a crisis halfway around the world. To every homestay host, this would have been impossible without you. We hope to see our Romanian friends soon, and wish them all the best in addressing this difficult situation. We loved having you in Kansas City.