Liliana Olăraşu has been an IMPACT leader for eight years, a wonderful experience which she values not only for how it has affected her relationship with members of her club, but also for how it has affected her in her work as a teacher and in her life at home.
Everything started for Liliana with her attraction to non-formal education. As she says, “I felt like it was something that would stick to me.” Liliana recognized from the beginning of the IMPACT program that it was a good fit: “It fits well with who I am. I have a passion for volunteering and working with children, which I really like to do. I like to work informally with kids, even though I am by training a mathematics teacher, and that subject is usually interpreted as being more rigid. But at my very roots I am a teacher, and have always worked non-formally with children.”
Liliana shares and exhibits the secrets of a successful IMPACT leader: joy at working with children and willingness to learn from them. As she explains, “IMPACT has cemented some extraordinary friendships, so much so that we leaders forget that we are adults and they are kids. Honestly, we get to the point where we call each other by name, where there aren’t blockages, and where we recognize that here is something special: we do beautiful things and we do them with all of our hearts. No one is pushing us. We are doing exactly what we love and want to do.”
Because Liliana tries to learn from her kids, as well as teach them, she applies the great things she’s learned in IMPACT in other contexts, using non-formal methods in the classroom too. “There’s no way this couldn’t affect you personally,” she explains. “I have learned to listen better to those around me, and to have more patience.”
For anyone who sits and talks with her, it is obvious that Liliana loves children. She gives them the attention and understanding of a devoted teacher. “You are developing little souls here,” she says. “In class you don’t have time for them to tell you what’s going on in their lives. But here, through the relationship of openness and honesty that we have, we have something that I don’t know if we’d have in other conditions. Relationships in the classroom are also much improved; I certainly feel a difference between the kids who come to IMPACT and the kids who don’t – that is, the ones who come have a little something special. You can sense that they are a different type of child. These kids are much, much more involved.”
Liliana especially appreciates the specific non-formal educational methods of the IMPACT program because she understands what’s at stake: helping children learn without effort, and more importantly to learn important things about life. “That way,” she says, “when you are doing serious work with the kids they all have the impression that we’re playing, because the atmosphere is so nice. No one is trying to control the theme or standing to deliver a lecture. The kids learn many things and don’t even realize it, including many things about friendship and helping each other. These kids are really fantastic.”
A good IMPACT leader understands the goals of the activities, but also knows that behind games and fun are his/her own efforts, organization, and preparation, as well as the help always offered by the IMPACT members themselves to assist in making the activities a success. As Liliana explains, “These non-formal activities which appear to be just a game or something are actually really well-organized. Children who are no longer stressed about responding to a lesson are ready to learn – it’s something new. The blockages disappear, and everything just goes smoothly.”