Alexander holds his trumpet tight with anticipation in the minutes before his orchestra performs. It is almost unimaginable to him that he has traveled with his instrument to Italy, over 2,000 kilometers away from Bucharest. In his time at Concordia’s Children Town, he has received music lessons and toured with the orchestra not only throughout Romanian cities but also to other countries like Austria and Turkey. Concordia opened a new world to him.
He looks at the other children around him, and laughs to himself as he remembers pranking his friend another time their orchestra performed in Romania, filling his euphonium with small plums that burst forth when he played. He senses now that he is around family. He treasures the relationships he has forged, even when doing homework with Concordia’s educators.
Concordia’s Children’s Town was there to provide a home for Alexander when he needed it, offering him opportunities he had not expected given his difficult early years. He never knew his father and his mother left when he was six. His grandparents cared for him and his three brothers until they could no longer afford to.
He is like a lot of other children in Romania, for whom family is not present or active. One in three children in Romania live in persistent poverty even when parents are working — among the highest levels in the EU. So many more children should be given transformative experiences like Alexander’s.
Concordia crafts a family space for such youth daily where they receive the support they need and deserve. Alexander is now 20 years old and working at a bakery run by Concordia, which provides vocational training and offers employment for young people. After having grown up with the organization's other programs for 13 years, he has now received valuable training and work experience that will help shape his future.
Warmth and family are at the heart of Concordia’s bakery. Its staff builds strong relationships with the youth in training, working alongside them and learning about their backgrounds.
Alice Stavride and Madalina Constantinescu, general managers at Concordia, understand the intense psychological impact of unstable home life on vulnerable youth and craft programs that support them in their transition into adulthood.
In addition to the vocational training provided, young people are given access to counselors, job coaches, psychologists, doctors, and social services. Concordia’s professionals prioritize a holistic understanding of their needs and programs that will help them best.
Graduates from Concordia have opportunities in the labor market that they lacked previously. Moreover, they encounter a new path of life: they gain experience and learn about adulthood and responsibility, but also carry with them happiness and ambition inspired by Concordia.
NESsT has supported this mission with capacity building as Concordia scaled up. NESsT has helped heavily with financials, support for infrastructure for its bakery, and finding donors and projects for Concordia for apply to. NESsT also has opened opportunities for Concordia to network with and learn from business advisors and other social enterprises.
However, funding remains a lasting challenge for Concordia and we want to help.
Concordia can extend its reach among Romanian children with greater investment in its equipment and financing for replication of its model.
With the right support, Concordia can continue being a home and a family for children like Alexander for years to come.