In 2020, 82 UiPath employees from Romania and India participated in our mentorship program that aims to provide children in the Future Acceleration Program with guidance and adult counsel. Through this program, children observe first-hand healthy values and role models to help them harness their potential and make better decisions for their own future. Before becoming acquainted, the mentors were trained by the experts of the Noi Orizonturi Foundation, who taught them how to communicate with the children and who provide constant support in dealing with the issues emerging in their relationship with the teenagers under their mentorship. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the mentoring activity became partially or totally online; the meetings were transformed in either lessons designed as activity-based projects, in Romania, or were shaped in a less rigorous format on Zoom, in India, while pursuing the same goal: to help the children discover who they are and take one step further towards achieving their hidden potential.
Ioana had been long looking for a way to give back to the community, and the opportunity to become a mentor for a teenager as part of the Future Acceleration program seemed the best way. A simple discussion between an adult and a teenager may provide that child with life prospects, says Ioana, product manager within UiPath in Cluj, as well as may plant the idea that “there are people who will listen to you, who can help you and who are not so different from you and vice versa”. Since they met, in the fall of 2020, Ioana has been constantly impressed with R. 's tempered attitude, a student in the 9th grade. He knows what he wants, he is determined, and he won’t allow himself to be swayed by other people’s opinions. He is also very organized: he works out for half an hour or one full hour every day, from Monday to Saturday. All the meetings shifted to Zoom last fall, which lowered the intimacy and spontaneity of the interaction; still, the online format of the meetings is welcomed, despite not having enough time for R. to tell her all about the last anime he read. Once every two weeks, she and R. along with another mentor-teenager pair connect on Zoom. They work in a dyad because the foundation wants to provide every child the safety of having more than one adult in one meeting and work through a lesson plan, based on various themes and activities meant to prompt them to speak about themselves and discover one another. “None of us, mentors, know how each activity contributes”, says Ioana, “but the fact we have this guideline from UiPath Foundation is amazing”. During the first meeting, they had to address the question “Who am I?”. She learned that R. enjoys reading, and that Ovidiu, her fellow mentor, is very keen on sports, yoga, and healthy nutrition. Ioana believes that she can help R. the most by engaging in a fully open communication with him, thus he may gain the courage to speak openly about his feelings, and it is important for him to realise that other people have similar problems or dilemmas. She was very surprised by her own self-control of not giving advice. She is the type of person who immediately seeks solutions for the problems she encounters, but thanks to the training sessions she attended, she now knows how to listen and steer the conversation towards ideas that would help the boy. This is how she wants to contribute to this relationship, through active listening, to help him look at a problem from multiple angles and then make a decision. Ioana believes that the children who lack this ability cannot evolve and strengthen their courage. “They are not expecting solutions, as school and family may provide plenty of those. I believe that the goal is to create an environment that enables them to find the solutions themselves”.
The most notable surprise for Ovidiu in his role as a mentor was when B., the 14-year-old boy he mentors, began to express his thoughts and emotions through images. In one of the Zoom meetings, he had with his colleague, they each had to draw a crest representing who they were, and Bogdan created an image that contained several symbols which he also explained a dragon and angel wings conveying his desire to express himself and fly, and wolves to represent his courage.
Prior to the fall of 2020, when they used to meet in the park, it was difficult for Ovidiu to convince B. to be more open. He soon realized that the boy was an introvert who “would constantly scan the surroundings as if he was living in an unsafe environment”.
But when he heard him speak of courage, he realized that he must be patient and that the impact would surface in due time, as we each have our own pace when it comes to expressing ourselves. Ovidiu, coach and product manager, wanted to be a mentor in our program because he had always enjoyed sharing the act of learning, from being a yoga trainer to doing sports with his own son, and because he believes that this is the best gift we can give to this world, namely, to connect with our inner person. He places a great importance on working with a teenager, particularly one who comes from a struggling family. “When you plant seeds and initiate conversations or create experiences for the child you work with, be sure that he/she will access them at one point”.
He believes the best way to inspire B. (who has no father and lives with his mother, is to be by his side and help him process the experiences he is going through, which would be difficult to do alone.
So far, Ovidiu has learned to be more patient and see the world through a new set of eyes. “It is a privilege to analyse the same thing and talk about this world in which we live, and the way family and life puts a mark on us”.
Since training to become a mentor, Dana, member of the UiPath PR team, felt she had much to learn. After learning more about a child’s development phases, she remembered herself as a teenager and realized the importance of growing up with self-confidence. This is how she intends to inspire the girl she mentors. The girl has a great discipline in sport, a passion which Dana shares, and she would like to help her gain more trust in herself, in school and in her relationship with her parents. Dana wanted to become a mentor to give back what she also learned from others and wants to help the girls unlock her real potential. Since the first meetings in the fall of 2020, they established a set of values to help guide their interaction, the main being their mutual openness and trust that they can communicate about anything. She believed that the most important thing she could do was to set herself as an example for the girl, and so to take the initiative and be open, be supportive, make her feel she has someone to lean on, which will create a sense of emotional stability. She believes that all these values enable teenagers from vulnerable communities, who are under pressure because of the lack of financial resources, to unlock their real potential. “I believe we, who are several years older than them, are able to help them bring all this to the surface and reveal their courage”.
Raluca, video producer part of the global brand team of UiPath, started her journey as a mentor with a specific goal, “to convince this child that his current situation is just a moment in his life, it is not a sentence”, and to help him dare and be confident enough to change his life. Since starting to meet with V., in the fall of 2020, she thought he was incredibly responsible. At only 12, V. is a mediator between his parents and real life. He is the only one in the family who can read, and he takes care of all that is necessary to make sure his family functions, such as, with bills, relations with authorities and school. Raluca is looking forward to meeting him in the flesh, because they only met on Zoom and neither him, nor the other teenager of that dyad, turn on their cameras, probably because they don’t have a personal space at home and feel uncomfortable about it.
She feels proud that both her and her fellow mentor managed to be persistent and committed to the children, they meet before the lessons, talk about what they learned last time from the children, what novelty they could bring to the next lesson and spend at least one hour making a plan.
Raluca is convinced that teenagers from vulnerable communities will be braver if they don’t feel so different from others. Both mentors admitted they often found themselves facing a wall because both teenagers were hesitant to opening to them, and so the project-based learning activities they planned provided bridges of communication. When they both had to draw their own crest, they were able to learn more about the children by referring to the logos they used. “Our hope is that they don’t perceive us as teachers, although they call me “Miss”. We are trying to speak on equal terms”.
When she signed up to become a mentor, Ioana, project manager in software development in UiPath, knew the children from Ferentari after volunteering in the camp in 2019 in Cheile Grădiștei (Romania). She had been a mentor before and so she understood even more during the UiPath Foundation training sessions why mentoring feels so important, because she can apply the growth mindset concept. “Children tend to say, ‘I am not capable, I can’t, I don’t know’ and we should be there to reply, “try, take baby steps, although you can’t do all now, you will at one point, but take it slowly’”. With that in mind, she began working with Bianca in 2020 and she feels proud whenever she learns more about her, family is crucial for her and she has a close connection with her mother, who is now married for the second time, and with her three younger siblings. She enjoys school, as well as make up and tailoring. The challenge was to refrain from projecting her own experience and expectations onto the girl. When Bianca would tell her things she disapproved of, Ioana gradually understood that the role of mentors is to support children and not necessarily show them the best way, from their perspective. A mentor should ask useful questions, such as, why you want to do this, what is the purpose, where do you want to go, what is the final goal, and lead them to their own decisions.
Since meetings moved online, the challenge was to make sure they meet at the best moment, because the children sometimes forget to connect on Zoom.
They talk about what she had been up to, what school exams she has to take in the 8th grade, what school subject she is struggling with, and about the role models outside her world, and all these insights “are a source of inspiration and dreams about things she hasn’t been exposed to”. In addition to the material and educational support, “I believe that this one-on-one relationship makes them confident that they can do more”.
Andrei is a colleague of Ioana in the company, he works as a programmer. From her he learned about the mentorship program and was convinced to sign up, despite being initially concerned about his lack of experience with children. The boy he mentors is 15 and comes from a single-parent family. His mother, who works hard, is always trying to change her shifts at her job to make up for the lost time with her children. Given this situation, he expected to see a boy rather disconnected from his family, but in fact was surprised to see how close they are to one another, including his uncle, who is very present in their lives and with whom he plays football. The biggest surprise was when he saw how fast the boy can absorb new information. During their face-to-face meetings before the pandemic, Andrei would tell him that he would ask some people for directions if he did not know the address, and this shy and reclusive boy who at first wondered why strangers would help, became more and more confident with every meeting, to the point of suggesting himself to Andrei to ask people questions. Andrei felt reassured that the boy was in fact taking an interest in their conversations.
Going digital was a challenge, because the boy didn’t have a smartphone of his own for one month. He got one in the end and so they were able to speak through brief messages and gifs, but it also broke down and was forced again to use his mother’s phone whenever he could.
Andrei believes that this mentoring experience may help the boy by simply creating a connection with the experiences and the perspective of a very different person. “On the one hand, I can understand your perspective and you can understand mine”, he said to the boy, “we have two different perspectives, because of the age difference and the way we live. And this exchange helps us both become better people”.
Anca and Ioana, Software Engineers, are both mentors in the same dyad, for two teenage girls. Ioana has previous experience of working with children, so she was interested in mentoring because it seemed valuable to see a child developing in the long term. Anca had never been involved in volunteering or mentoring, and when she heard about the program, she remembered that she used to be quite an introvert when she was a child and that she would have enjoyed talking to an adult other than her parents, more neutral and perhaps closer in age. So, she thought she should play this role for another teenage girl. They were both surprised by the politeness and tempered manner of the girls from their dyad, after expecting something else at the end of the training which taught them to even react to conflicts from the children’s lives and to strong emotions. Both girls come from large families, who either live on one salary or on welfare, are very shy and distant. Both times when they met in person in Cluj, the two mentors found it difficult to communicate, despite behaving as open as they could, particularly with their masks on having to constantly repeat what they said. On Zoom, the girls connected without turning their cameras on, and their interaction sparked particularly when they had to draw the team crest. “We had an objective, and each knew what she had to do and that is why they were more responsive”, said Ioana, but because their cameras were off, because they were home with their brothers and sisters, and because there were various noises in the background whenever they turned on their microphones, communication was again hindered by external factors.
Ioana and Anca’s biggest interest is to help the girls express, and perhaps build up their self-confidence by listening, showing an interest in what they say and helping them develop their own ideas. “I would like to see the girls strongly advocate for an idea, to see them passionate and preferably even arguing against something I said”, says Anca, knowing that this cannot happen overnight. “It is our task to discover a way to get closer. The more they know about us, the stronger their trust will be, and this will probably make them more open about themselves”.
Adrian, tester in UiPath, signed up as a mentor because he believed t only a human connection can truly have an impact on a child, and the constant support for us provided the perfect framework to do so. During trainings he learned how to listen, show empathy, and understand the background of the children, considering that interaction with children from single-parent or poor families requires a different focus. “At first you think you just go there and talk to them, and it will be fine\, but there are many things you don’t consider which can easily become mistakes. This is the biggest fear I had was what if I damage this child for good?”. Adrian mentors a 6th grade boy who lives with his mother and his three brothers, after his father died several years ago. Adrian was impressed by the boy’s exuberance, optimism, openness to communicate and eagerness to learn. “He is like a sponge, he reads everything that falls on his hands, he is very connected, he has a TikTok channel and is very passionate about drawing”.
He tried to apply what he learned in training, that he should listen and refrain from providing solutions, because “empathic listening entails letting the other know that you understand what he/she is going through, instead of simply monopolizing the conversation with solutions”, as well as he should not judge. At one point, the boy said he wanted to become a graffiti artist and a rapper and that he didn’t need high school for that. Adrian and his fellow mentor advised him not to eliminate all his options at that age and perhaps go to a high school specializing in fine arts. When they addressed the issue of exams, the boy said that he was very afraid of the national evaluation which made them realize that this fear was in fact behind his reluctance to go to high school, the fear of failing the exam and of confronting the others. Adrian felt this was a great victory, partly because the boy finally expressed his fear as well because during the next meeting, he announced that he wanted to become an architect, so he would go to high school no matter what.
Adrian is proud of himself for listening to the boy without interrupting, and for being patient, particularly during the Zoom meetings which takes place twice a month, with poor connection that forces both of them to repeat what they said. He was surprised by his fellow mentor’s ability, who works in PR, to interfere empathically and ask Florin, who is rather chatty, to allow the other teenager, who is shy, to speak. “She knows how to set the rules, and she is also fun. The child doesn’t feel scolded like in school”.
Adrian’s objective is to make sure this process teaches the child to believe in himself, opens his horizons and “sees him as someone who went to school and is now very happy. Not necessarily a role model, but someone who can always talk to when he is at a crossroad and who will always be there for him”.
Anisha is automation developer UiPath in India and signed up to become a mentor in the UiPath Foundation because she wanted to become a guide “to bring my contribution in the life of a person, through my own experience, through what happened to me, through what I learned, and the mistakes I’ve made”. In India, each mentor looks after two children, and the meetings take place at the same time. Anisha mentors two girls, of 14 and 15 years of age, who attend the same school, but are very different. The first acknowledges her precarious situation and she is aware that she cannot do whatever she would like with her life, while the second is convinced she can exceed her condition and that she can become whatever she wants in the future.
The meetings that take place on Zoom follow a free format. Anisha would like to encourage them to speak and open up, to understand what kind of help they need. Due to the cultural differences and because they were born in poor families, Anisha feels they need constant encouragement and determination to be more open, particularly when they turn off the video camera and microphone on Zoom. She uses examples from her own life, from when she studied, from her workplace, her family, to make them feel comfortable to also speak openly. She tries to sympathize with their situation and to imagine what she would need if she were that age again. When one of the girls didn’t want to practice English because she thought she did not speak well, Anisha told her she didn’t speak English well when she was her age either but had to learn it and encouraged on her speaking in English reassuring her that she would point out any mistakes and thus help her improve her skills. “Their communication skills improved. I recommended them to keep trying and to never believe anyone who tells them that they don’t speak correctly. They should trust their skills, keep practicing and learn.”
She was surprised when, once they saw that they were making progress, they started to have confidence that they can do more and become more interested in the process. “I had to push them a bit, but they pushed themselves more”. She wants them to make their own decisions, as this is a challenge for them.
Being a mentor was a major learning opportunity for Anisha as well. She became more confident that she can be useful to another person, and she learned something about herself too. “I learned not only how to be an adult when interacting with children, but also to be their friend, to become a child myself and make them understand everything is alright, that I also went through similar situations and that they also know everything will be alright”. A turning point was when one of the girls said she needed money, and Anisha explained that she cannot offer her that and that she would tell the foundation about her situation; her role was only to be there for her. Next time they met, she asked her how she felt, and it was the first time she revealed more about herself. “She saw my honest reaction, and this made her feel comfortable. She realized that simply sharing her thoughts would make her feel better”.
Ajay works in the sales team of UiPath India, and since August 2020 he has been a mentor for two boys of 13 and 14 years old. Both are clever, resourceful, and quick learners, but feel constrained by their financial situations, and believe they lack the opportunity to truly pursue their passions, dancing and cricket. In his relationship with them, Ajay, also the father of a teenage girl, wants to help them discover how to reignite these passions, “as the ability, the actual steps are within their power alone, no one else can do it in their place”.
To achieve his goal, he simply started to listen and build their self-confidence. He spoke about his own childhood experiences, about failures and how he overcame them. He also told them what one of his mother’s uncles told him which had an impact on him, “Whatever you do, don’t repress what your heart desires”. The boys slowly started to realize they could trust him and gradually opened up to him to the point that they were able to actually describe their passions. “The idea is to speak from their perspective. To understand their views and speak their language, see the world as they see it. Once you understand this, things become easier”. Ajay understands what he is dealing with, what are their insecurities and challenges are and it is easier for them to also talk to him.
For them and other teenagers, who also come from underprivileged backgrounds, to build their courage and follow their way, Ajay believes they need a clear-thinking process to make them understand the problem and solve it on their own. “You are there only to provide support; you should allow them to find their own solutions”. The process? Break the problem into small pieces and help them find solutions. It takes patience and perseverance, two things Ajay learned to do better while mentoring them.
Because their relationship began during lockdown, they only saw each other on Zoom and Ajay thinks that this deprived him of the opportunity to understand their gestures, to perceive non-verbal details, but they all adapted. “The mentoring program is very close to my heart”, says Ajay. “I strongly believe that by helping one child at a time to raise up and reach their potential, the world will be a better place”.
Candice, executive assistant with UiPath India, grew up with her mother’s stories about the children from the poor villages of India who she used to help, and she always wanted to have such a positive contribution. The launch of the UiPath Foundation seemed like the perfect opportunity and so she signed up to be a mentor. Despite being the mother of a teenage girl herself, she found mentoring a completely different experience for which she had no expectations. The two girls she works with have no role model in their lives, and the fact that they have someone who they can talk to is rather unusual for them. One of the girls is a 9th grade student and lives with her mother. After her father died, she confided in Candice that she would like to read and write like her. The second, a 10th grade student, lives with her brother, mother and father and is shy, but a good learner who aspires to become an engineer. Candice works on making her be more open to her. When talking to them, she always tries to include games that would make them share things about themselves and gives them small tasks to write something about themselves by the next meeting. One of the girls was afraid to speak in public and told Candice that she didn’t like to read her homework out loud in school. Candice suggested she should take a book and read it out loud before a mirror. “Look at yourself and continue reading”, she said. “Gradually try to build your confidence and practice every day so that when the time comes, you will have no problem reading before an audience”. The girl followed her advice and the next time they met she revealed that the teacher asked her to read out loud before the class and it went very well, and the teacher told her she made fantastic progress.
Candice was happy she really made an impact. When planning for the next sessions, she had her mind focused on building a reliable relationship with the girls. “If they ever find themselves in a situation where they don’t know what to do and who to turn to, I want to be that moral support to them”.
She often thinks of how to help them be more open, because if they finally speak about the little things that trouble them, they will feel relieved of that burden and feel they have someone who understands them.
Before mentoring, Candice didn’t see herself as a patient person. Despite being a teenager’s mother, she feels she loses patience rather fast; she wants things to happen as she says and is disappointed when the result is not as expected. “But these girls took me to a whole new level, they made me feel connected, patient and capable of taking things as slowly as it is necessary”.
Candice doesn’t necessarily feel that mentoring is an act of bravery, but simply something she wanted to do, a strong need to give back, to guide the girls and speak to them. When one of the girls showed her a drawing, she did it specially for her. Candice was impressed and moved to tears. “I felt I made an impact. She probably felt a connection with me and decided that she can do this for me. I keep thinking what it is that I did to have had such an impact on her”.
From organizing camps, providing learning tools, inventing outdoor activities for children, to preparing webinars for teachers, drafting legal papers, programming tablets for tutoring and schools, our activities would have never been accomplished over the past year without the involvement of dedicated volunteers. The employees of UiPath company offered their time and expertise to contribute to our impact on the children’s lives in a very different and challenging year in terms of education.
A constant and key support for us, comes from the legal department and is provided by Bogdan, senior legal counsel on Corporate Mergers & Acquisitions within UiPath. Since the beginning, s Bogdan started helping us with the articles of incorporation, legal and corporate structure, and remains the main contact person for any legal issue; either by solving it or by directing you to someone who will. When the pandemic broke, we were forced to rethink many of the previous activities, and to take strategic decisions with legal implications concerning the reallocation of the foundation’s budget to serve other purposes. Also, during the pandemic, some donors wanted to help hospitals by acquiring equipment through us, which, in theory, was not our purpose. Bogdan was able to find adequate solutions to make sure we were legally compliant while satisfying the donors’ wishes to help. However, Bogdan find’s it most challenging when he has contact with the tough reality in which the Foundation’s beneficiaries live. That was the case when we needed the parents’ consent for their children to participate in the activities organized, and one parent was in prison. This became a legal obstacle, but Bogdan guided them to a notary who accepted to accompany them to the penitentiary to obtain that parents’ consent.
In other cases, Bogdan managed to establish a partnership with two attorney firms, who either provided pro bono support on certain projects, or lowered their fees from 2000 – 3000 Euros to 400 Euros. “I think that it is an achievement if the amount used to pay the attorney firm is directed to UiPath Foundation. This is what matters.”
Although he had never volunteered before, Bogdan feels that “nothing is like the work that the foundation performs directly for these children guiding them through their educational journey”. The information, guidance and support these children receive translates into the happiness that shows on their faces when Bogdan sees them in different activities and parties with all their colleagues. At that moment, he feels that even his legal support, even though indirect, has an impact on their lives.
Ninett is senior Robot Process Automation developer within UiPath and started to volunteer for us since they organized their first activity dedicated to children in 2019 at the camp in Cheile Grădiștei (Romania).
Ninett thought it was important since the very beginning of our foundation, wanted to help the children in the long term and fulfil their needs. In addition to all the activities carried out that week, from painting, archery, football, learning about robotics, participating in a talent show, the camp’s purpose was to identify their strengths and interests, to be able to support them further in their education.
Accustomed to her friends’ children who lacked nothing, Ninett was impressed by the stories of the children who, before going to school, had to go take care of domestic animals. She realized that these children were more accustomed to facing hardship in their lives than her or any other children. “If the concerns of the children around me were focused around not having the latest iPhone or not getting the cake they wanted, these children’s problems were entirely different. Some dealt with violence, others were not sent to school because there was no one to take care of the house”.
Ninett, who is a communicative and convivial person, realized during the camp that you can truly understand a child once you get to know his/her story. “Listening every day to the stories told by UiPath Foundation, who knew these children well, made me realize that I should not label and judge people in the first place, whether they are children or anyone else. You never know what their stories hide”.
Ninett believes “you can always find the time to do volunteering if you want to”, who held another robotics class organized by UiPath Foundation for children during the national science fair Code Kids Fest, and who in 2020 created a robot to help the NGO Digital Nation automate the registration process in a project dedicated to teachers. “I believe that children definitely provide the most genuine feedback”, she says, after seeing the impact on the children who were in the camp during the online meetings in 2020. “The feedback received, regardless of circumstances, encouraged me to offer more”.
software engineer with UiPath in India, was happy to help us when the pandemic hit and we were looking for someone to translate the guidelines of the World Health Organization on protection against COVID in Kannada, a local language of Bangalore, India. We needed the translation in order to create an audio voice over to help children understand the guidelines in their own language, to know when to stay indoors, to use disinfectant, to wear masks and keep a distance from other people, and to know who to contact if they have COVID symptoms.
“For a child who speaks Kannada, a 2,000-year-old language, it is rather difficult to understand Hindi or English, both official languages in India. The children don’t learn it in school, so having this information in their native language is vital”, thinks Naveen. “It was really easy to do because the team from UiPath Foundation made the process and the instructions very clear, and there were people to help if they got stuck”.
He is glad that by providing this help, although it did not feel like a great effort for him, he was able to support our work. “When you are trying to help the children at grassroot level, they will in turn contribute further to creating a better future for this country. UiPath Foundation is doing great work and I appreciate it”.
When the pandemic hit and the children, we supported needed tablets for school and online lessons, Mihai, a service desk representative within UiPath, provided key support.
Once we found a suitable model for the number of tablets we needed (130 at first) and placed the order, Mihai was further tasked to find a management solution that would be the most effective and appropriate. The tablet requirements were many, it had to be easy to use for all the people across the country from our members to our volunteers to the children who had to learn how to use it. The requirements had to also be child safe, without access to content not meant for minors or to social media, to prevent the children from installing all kinds of apps, preventing access to unsuitable apps through Play Store and it had to be compatible with the school-related needs of the children.
Once he developed the management solution, Mihai had to program all 130 tablets manually, because automatic programming was not a cost or time saving solution. It took several nights for him to turn on and program each tablet, at home, then set the child’s name and password to enable them to attend the lessons only by pressing the power button and then to write down the details such as the child’s name and where each tablet should go. He did get help from his wife.
“I did it with great pleasure. Afterwards, when the colleagues who went to distribute the tablets sent me photos with each child smiling ear to ear with the tablet in their hands, I had forgotten all about the exhaustion”.
Now Mihai helps us with various issues. After the school started in the fall, he was asked to help with the installation of Ad Servio on each tablet, for the children to be able to attend school in addition to our lessons, using the already installed management solution.
In some cases, the children who already had a tablet did not receive another from the school and this complicated Mihai’s job, who had to integrate the schools’ systems with our systems, which were rather different. The entire process had to be easily managed remotely. In case of loss, theft, or any damage, he had to make sure he could locate the tablet and that the children’s data was secure and were not at risk. Any update had to be easily installed by volunteers without any further interference.
Mihai recently learned about the case of a child from Cluj who struggled with finding a signal in his house because of its structure. To not miss his lessons, the child stayed in the car in front of the house, even during winter, to have internet access, Mihai found a solution to improve the signal inside the house and when he got a photo with the boy happily using his tablet inside the house, Mihai felt that it was all worthwhile. “When you see this smile, your work begins to make sense at the end of the day”.
Mihai believes volunteering is never a lost time. “This kind of impact keeps someone going. By volunteering, your efforts have a real impact on children’s lives. These are children who want to stay in school and the only way is to help them. You can change his/her future. The simple actions, such as fixing a tablet or securing the internet connection can keep them in school, safe and essentially change their lives. It is impossible not to get involved”.
During the summer of 2020, when everyone began to realize that working from home would become a status quo in education as well, the NGO Digital Nation advanced a proposal before our foundation to prepare a webinar and help teachers switch to online teaching. Oana, an individual contributor for a strategic program of UiPath company and Răzvan, manager of a team that creates technical learning content, both passionate about the learning process, began to work on it.
With the help of Mina Gălii, our colleague and former teacher in the Teach for Romania program, Oana and Răzvan took a 3rd grade lesson and thought about how to deconstruct and reconstruct it back to a digital format. At the same time, they also explained several key learning principles, trust, autonomy, and spacing, to the teachers, which in online learning become more relevant and should be particularly applied. Trust, “If you don’t trust the people who teach you or for whom you organize a learning session, you cannot support their autonomy. You must first trust them.” said Oana. Autonomy, which should be passed from the teacher to the trainee which in the Romanian educational system is a mindset difficult to change, because teachers sometimes tend to take control based on their experience and not or barely enable the children``. Spacing, a lesson should not comprise too many cluttered concepts and children should not spend more than one hour for one lesson or less if the lessons are shorter where interaction and collaboration should be enforced. According to Răzvan, what distinguishes this volunteering experience from others, such as helping sick children or planting trees, was that it was based on his area of expertise, on what he enjoys doing. “I believe that after working 10 years in this field, we are at a level where we can try to give something back. This is what having a vocation and passion about learning means and the fact that we can give back something is really cool”.
Also, the novelty was having to discuss with teachers who should understand better certain things they were trying to teach them. There was a moment of doubt, “Since we are experts in teaching adults, they are experts in teaching children, how come we go there and teach them how to better teach children. Do we have this knowledge?”. They took this responsibility, and they had a teacher to help.
2,000 people participated in the webinar, which means “there clearly was great interest from teachers and many were dealing with the same challenges”, said Oana. She thinks this was a great opportunity for the teachers to reduce some of the pressure placed on them during that time.
“There was a pressure and I think there still is to hold a 40-minute digital class only because that is how much a physical class would last”, said Răzvan. He informed the teachers that it was impossible to pack the same content in an environment with much more limited interaction, but he also understood the pressure that was coming from the authorities which were unyielding in changing the class format, the curriculum) and expected the same structure digitally.
Oana, who had volunteered for many years, does not think this is an act of bravery, “but I am putting more effort than what I felt I was doing 5-10 years ago, when perhaps it was done for selfish reasons unknowingly. It is a greater effort and a more significant contribution, which feels slightly bigger than last year”.
To Răzvan, being a volunteer for our educational programs was an extension of his work and it reminded him what researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky said during her class The Science of Well-Being. “One of the greatest sources for happiness is to use your character strengths. This falls under that category. It is a way of taking my work in the learning process to a slightly different realm”.
You have reached the end of our activity report for 2020.
With every story of courage discovered in the report – of the children in our educational programs, of our strategic partners, of mentors and volunteers and of our team, we have tried to convey our message about COURAGE - that was and will be a source of energy for the future! Thank you for going through the entire collection of stories about the programs and initiatives that try to generate a long term change. We, at the UiPath Foundation, will continue to be present in the lives of the children we support, to help them discover and make best use of their potential, and to ensure that every child or teacher has access to quality learning to be able to dream for a better future. We invite you and stay close to us and to the incredible stories about courage from our communities. To learn more about us and our initiatives, you can follow us here: