A few years ago, during an exercise, someone asked me: What would you like to leave behind, how do you want to be remembered? … I think it’s important to be a good person, to do good with all your heart, because that will eventually get back to you.
When I worked in the public sector, I was told I had NGO glasses because previously I had worked in a nongovernmental organization. I took it as a compliment, although I don’t think it was meant to be one. Now, people from the public sector or NGOs could tell me that I think like a corporate person. But such labels never define the person underneath. It is not our job, age or place of birth that give description of who we are, but the things we do each day, giving a helping hand to those in need, from close or afar.
I have always been involved in philanthropy, but it was not a continuous action. Probably the year I spent in the United States (2010-2011), with a Hubert Humphrey fellowship from the U.S. Department of State brought me closer to the American society and their way of doing things.
Upon returning, I changed my job and moved from the public to the private sector. In Romania, there is chronic mistrust between people, but also between sectors which I have experienced from being on both sides of the table. Adversities and confrontations prevent real dialogue to take place. Also, if we want to support a cause, but we don’t know the beneficiaries well, we wonder if the money goes where it should or if it’s enough to make a change. The concept of an event such as the Donors Circle addresses this mistrust precisely because beneficiaries come in front of you to pitch their projects and call for support. At the Donors Circle organized by PACT, a Romanian organization active in the community development field, I felt that I found what I was looking for. In that moment, my desire to get more involved found the right opportunity.
I was one of the supporters of the three projects presented there. I mobilized my friends and I tried to convince the audience to donate as well. Even the smallest gesture can change another person’s life. The involvement and efforts are quite small compared to the satisfaction that you receive. The donation, regardless the amount, has a greater impact than you’d expect. And it’s not about the money, it is also about trust
After the event, one of the beneficiaries, Mrs. Gabriela Păduraru from Piatra Olt, told me something that impressed me. When she saw that room full of young people, around 30 years old, she wondered if they wanted to support the project and if they had the means to. In her mind, one can do philanthropy only when he reaches a certain age and a certain social status. She was so amazed about what happened there.
Her reaction reminded me of an event in 2005, while I was still working for the Presidential Administration. In that year there were large floods in Vrancea County. One day, I visited the area with the State Councilor. It was a disaster, much worse than the images presented on TV. The Presidency received a request from Save the Children Organization, who wanted to organize camps and counseling sessions for children in the affected areas. The action was held under the patronage of the President. Children were taken with a special bus to the mountains and the seaside. I heard the wonder of a child when he got off from the bus, near the Peles Castle. “Oh, and we will stay here, in this castle so big and beautiful?!” he asked.
I have always been impressed by that look on people’s faces when they get something unexpected, a joy every man feels when one of his dreams comes true. Mrs. Paduraru had this kind of reaction. From that moment on, I am convinced she would trust more young people.
I have a deep admiration for what people enterprise and achieve in the communities I support through the PACT Foundation. I find it extraordinary that they are building projects from scratch and with limited resources, and they want to change something without expecting all the support to come from the authorities or anyone else.
We live in a hectic city and we pass by many things that revolt us without doing something to change them. On the other hand, people from these communities lack the resources, information and opportunities we have, but want to be involved and start on their own to change things for the better. With little means they manage to succeed. And they need financial and moral support – a vote of confidence to know they are not alone. They deserve it and we have very much to learn from them. Always, when it comes to me, I find it hard to plead my cause. I am not at ease entering a room full of strangers and asking for help. But when it comes to helping others, I get over my distress.
Usually, they say that you use your skills to help others. For me, it’s the opposite: I learn how to help myself by helping others.