February 19, 2006
-Maura Reap, RPCV Romania and Crisis Corps Volunteer, Thailand
Editor’s note: A year ago, we promoted a Peace Corps Partnership Project in Romania sponsored by then PCV Maura Reap with a short article in our February 2005 newsletter. The project was to sponsor a two-day sensitivity training seminar for Romanian social workers, psychologists, and school counselors on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) issues. This is a topic considered taboo in Romania, and is rarely addressed in professional training programs. Consequently, social service providers working with LGBT individuals are poorly prepared to effectively work with them. Maura has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and truly believed that these mental health professionals wanted to help their LGBT clients, but lacked the knowledge to do so. Thus, the purpose of this seminar was to provide social service professionals from all over Romania with the tools they need to effectively work with and help their LGBT clients. The principles to be taught at the seminar were to be based upon the guidelines currently endorsed by the American Psychological Association. The project did go ahead and was successful. Maura tells us how it turned out.
I am writing to share news with you about the project you helped to promote last winter in your newsletter. Specifically, this was the LGBT sensitivity training workshop for social service providers in Romania. I am very happy to report that it was very successful!
As you may remember, this project was tentatively scheduled to take place last February. However, initial funding difficulties led to the postponement of the project until October 2005. My Peace Corps service ended in April 2005 so, sadly, I was not able to participate. With my departure, responsibility for implementing the project was assumed by my two co-facilitators: Peace Corps Volunteer Jacquelyn and Romanian colleague Tudor.
Both of these two individuals worked very hard to execute this project, and from all reports they did a commendable job. Arranging logistics turned out to be very difficult because the dollar exchange rate was very poor at the time the grant money was actually awarded. This was further compounded by the reality that many communities did not want to support such a controversial project. Despite these obstacles, Jacquelyn and Tudor were able to arrange round trip transportation, meals, two days accommodation for four speakers, and meeting space that amply met the needs of the participants.
Feedback from participants and observers indicated that the training was very useful and informative. Over the two days, the participants participated in many discussions and received a lot of information about LGBT issues. In the process, they were also invited to examine their own biases and attitudes towards LGBT clients. At the conclusion of the workshop, the participants reported that they had an enhanced understanding of LGBT social issues and gender identity, and felt better prepared to work with LGBT clients.
In all, there were 24 participants in attendance at the two-day training. Most of the participants were psychologists and social workers, and worked directly with clients from schools, residential programs, community clinics, and shelters. This was the first training ever of its kind in Romania! Though I could not be part of the actual implementation, it was very exciting to have a role in helping this training to take place. And I greatly appreciate the role that you also played by promoting the project. I feel optimistic that everyone involved helped to make a positive impact for LGBT individuals in Romania.
Maura Reap can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.