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University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 14, 2004

Iowa Voyagers Offer Volunteer Service Trip To Romanian Orphanages, Schools

The University of Iowa Alumni Association Iowa Voyagers program is offering a volunteer service trip May 7 - 21 to work with Romanian orphans and school-age children through the non-profit organization, Global Volunteers.

Participants on the trip will care for infants in a "failure to thrive" clinic in Tutova, Romania or teach English to teens and young adults in school classrooms in Barlad, Romania. The trip is open to all interested; the Voyagers can take up to 15 people on its volunteer team.

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack, and their two boys, have been highly involved in Global Volunteers service trips in the past. Christie is a 1992 UI journalism graduate and is endorsing the Alumni Association's spring trip.

"As Global Volunteers participants, Tom and I saw first-hand how lives and communities can be profoundly transformed. I encourage you to consider this wonderful and unique opportunity to serve the children of Romania. Working together, we can truly brighten the future for these deserving youths. I personally can't think of any work that is more important in today's world," Christie Vilsack said.

An Iowa City woman, Cathy Johnson, is the first person to join the Voyagers team to Romania and has a special connection to that country: her granddaughter, now 11 years old and living in California, was adopted from a Romanian orphanage seven years ago. Johnson said an interest in her granddaughter's background and her son's concern about the needs of Romanian orphanages sparked her desire to travel to Romania.

"I'm encouraged by the progress the country is making," Johnson said. "Romania has wonderful people and a rich culture, especially in the arts."

In Tutova, Romania, volunteer travelers will help feed and care for babies who arrive at the "failure-to-thrive ward" shortly after birth. Each day, volunteers play with, stimulate, love and nurture them in a way a parent would.

Team members can also teach conversational English to middle school and high school students in Barlad, Romania, helping them practice pronunciation and assisting with language exercises. No formal teaching experience is required, but retired and active teachers are welcome on the trip.

Volunteers will stay in a tourist-class hotel in Barlad. Breakfast and dinner will be at the hotel or nearby restaurants, with lunch served at or near the work sites. There are many opportunities to meet local residents and tour local towns during free time

Volunteers may spend evenings socializing with local residents and attending folk music concerts. Weekend options include hiking the Carpathian Mountains, touring the historic towns of Sinaia and Brasov, visiting the "Painted Monasteries", sunning on the Black Sea coast, or soaking in the vibrant cultural scene of Iasi or Bucharest.

The Iowa Voyagers program is offering the trip through Global Volunteers, which has helped people in struggling communities around the world, including the U.S. Its volunteers have built schools and roads, installed water systems and electricity, shared English skills and helped the world's homeless and disabled children.

For more information about the Romania trip, visit the Voyagers website at http://www.iowalum.com/voyagers/2005/operation_romania.html, call 800-469-2586 or email diane-baker@uiowa.edu.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: George McCrory, 319-384-0012, george-mccrory@uiowa.edu; Program: Diane Baker, Iowa Voyagers director, 319-335-3293