Never too late to live

My name is Dorin Craciun. If someone would have asked me ten years ago to write my transition story I would have looked suspicious and have politely said no. Not so much because of my job (public servant), but because I wouldn’y have known what to say. At that point I had too few coordinates; my thoughts at 28 were focused too little on the future and my community. Life meant only my daily job, friends and fun. And sometimes science fiction literature, as a hobby.

Now I can say that the 10 years that have passed fundamentally changed my life. I am married, have two wonderful children, I take new challenges to innovate and build positive change for those whom I live with. I run an NGO called Sports Club Ulpianum Oradea (Oradea is a town in west Romania), this is meant to promote sports activities outdoors whilst being considerate of the environment and putting family at the core of all activities. Through this association I intend to expand this new way of looking at outdoor, recreational activities and I must confess I put in practice this concept starting from my own personal experience, and had a lot of my friends, colleagues also less familiar acquaintances adopting this as lifestyle.

With hindsight I can say I was a child grown and educated during communism. I was a “pioneer” and “UTCist” (member in the Union of Communist Youth), as these were compulsory steps during schooling. But not all things I learned back then were bad: I learned to study, to be polite, to be environment friendly (collect paper for recycling and take bottles to specialized centres), to do sports, to learn and innovate but also to be a good friend to people my age. Democracy brought by the 1989 Revolution changed deeply my life and my country’s. If in high school I wanted to teach Romanian language and literature, after graduation I opted for the Police Academy, because I felt I could contribute to normality and order. At graduation I was sent to a town in Transylvania and have started my professional career in a field I’m working in today, to be honest a bit changed because I work in human resources and professional learning. My path was one that many youth my age would have followed: a school ensuring a workplace from after graduation until retiring.

The recent economic crisis showed that not all things happen the same in this country: there is a very high number of graduates of state institutions that need, employment but starting 2011 this didn’t happen and many saw their dreams shattered, waiting in a long, austere vacation the workplace they deserve.

The first ones supporting my career choice were my parents, my teachers and a tv commercial. My parents told me I had to choose my own path, meaning I have to do what I wish and love, my teachers showed me I am capable and knew to bring the best in me, and the tv ad said: “The Police Academy is recruiting brave youth to prepare them in public order…”

The second edge happened after a discussion with my wife who asked me after she looked up on the internet training courses for teachers: “aren’t you interested in a Grundvig adult training?” and my weird answer was “who is Grundvig?”. After doing some research I found a world of expanding opportunities, of national and European training programmes for adults, in various fields, and it wasn’t hard to find the right path for me, where I had the opportunity to learn something new and I think it may have been an answer to the mediocrity, flatness of my working environment.

The third element that changed my optic about the world and life was a question coming from my boy (back then aged 4) while we were contemplating, during a vacation, the big amount of plastic waste in a mountain river: “how can we clean this up? he asked, because we are ecologists and need to take care of the environment”. Back then I promised him I would design a system for recycling and that way take care of the environment.

I started to research what collecting PETs means and found that the salubrity systems used by operators had a small capacity and cleaning maneuver. Finally I found a cheap solution, applicable in both urban and rural environments, so I built a model and took it at work. I applied a questionnaire to my colleagues to see what the incidence of recyclable waste is in a month time. I found out that all my colleagues use and throw an impressive number of approx. 14.300 bottles type PET, which are hardly biodegradable. Even if at the beginning my initiative met some resistance, at present it is an example of good practice. Over time I managed to improve the model and apply it in various public institutions, schools and kindergardens in my community, I even found a system that could help my neighbors recycle paper.

This effort was eye opening for me. I realized it is in my power to set an example and let other people know about my way of solving important problems, with reduced and sustainable costs. I began volunteering; I started to participate in local action groups aiming for social insertion of disadvantaged individuals or finding welfare indicators for the population in my town. I realized there are people surrounding me with very good ideas that for some reason are afraid to share, and also youth that need models, a good advice based on experience. I tried to understand mechanisms of democratic and transparent decision making, and at present I am in a lobby and advocacy group to change political decisions so as to support population health through sports and outdoor movement. I feel that this is only one step, as there can be so many more, which is why the association I am part of wants to get involved in supporting youth. Sometimes I forget I am 38 and feel surprised when those in their 20s address me with 2nd person polite pronoun. I realize being young at heart is not visible and that would be a good topic for a roundtable with people in different generations. Who knows, maybe one day we could bring this to discussion: old that are “young”, and young that are “old”…

More on recycling

Hello Dorin, this is all really interesting congratulations on your work.

But… can we have some details? There are some things I don’t understand. Are you a policeman? Or are you a former policeman who has now become a teacher?

Also: did you actually take a Grundtvig course?

And finally, can you explain a bit more about the bottle recycling scheme? Maybe you can share a link for it.

It is also interesting what you say about finding welfare indicators in your town. The Council of Europe runs a project called Spirale, in which they work with citizens (often disadvantaged) of several cities in Europe to find out just that, citizen-defined welfare indicators. I wonder if it might be the same project?

I work in a local project for citizen-defined welfare indicators

Hello. Yes, I’m a police officer, actually gendarmes officer (in Italy - carabinieri), in human resources departament. I worked for five years as a trainer in the Gendarmerie Bihor. I have n translated it yet a document about the selective collection system. I hope to do soon. These are paper and PET bottles (for juice, mineral water). I am a part of two local groups working in Oradea. One deals with indicators of welfare of citizens and use the method Spirale (I think it is a French innovation !). In 2011 the Association Ulpianum wanted to participate in a Grundtvig Partnership, called E.C.L.I.P.S.E.S. (Ecological, Citizenship, Lifestyle, Intergenerational, Partnership, Solidarity, Economy, Sustainability.) But we did not receive funding due to insufficient funding. We worked very well with the italian association called Fattoria Pugliese diffusa in Taurisano. I am interested in any idea of ​​collaboration, including Grundtvig.

About our asociation…

Sports Club Ulpianum Oradea was born of a desire to combine outdoor sports activities with care for the environment, the family being in the center of each business. It is known that the sport is practised individually or in teams usually either male or female or juniors But our association wants to develop a new concept, the whole family being involved in physical and recreational activities in a way that will develop certainly in the future.

Sports Club Ulpianum Oradea, founded in 2008, is a nonprofit legal entity of private law, non-profit, with the primary goal of sports development, environmental protection, education of young people but adults as well as promoting volunteering. The sports association has as active members those who wish to conduct such activities aiming at sustaining and improving life. Currently the club has 426 active members, 314 from Oradea and from 112 Bihor county. Add to this the families of members, including children so that the total members are over 1,000 people. Because the organization of the activities, there are many people who have joined the association, to practice sports activities.

We organized many tennis, volleyball, athletics, badminton, table tennis, tennis, chess and darts competitions, paying special attention to youth involvement in such activities. In 2009 we organized a mini-football championship of Bihor county for high schools, attended by a total of 30 teams.

Ulpianum members put into practice a system of selective collection of PET bottles and paper in order to protect the environment. During 2008 - 2011 approximately 2000 kg of PET bottles and 3200 kg of paper have been collected and the system has proved its viability, starting to be implemented in educational institutions in Oradea. The organization participated in the September 2010 national activities Lets Do It Romania, managing Nojorid greening forest edge, near the city of Oradea, the lake shores Tileagd and the banks of the river Crisul Repede.

The club has a proper material equipment, evidenced by a multifunctional field, a playground for children, a gym and practice materials for many different sports. We had built locker rooms and toilets for athletes, a medical and fitness gym and a multipurpose room for the pursuit of cultural and educational activities and sports. In the next period a self defense room will be arranged and equipped and a panel of sports climbing, with a height of 8 meters as well.

CS Ulpianum aims at working not only in sport but in all those areas that allow initiative, collaboration, acquiring new knowledge, and generally develop a healthy spirit, based on an active life. Such activities aim at increasing the accessibility, quality and volume of mobility in Europe, for people who want to improve education, to improve quality and increase the volume of cooperation between organizations involved in adult education, to facilitate the development of innovative practices in adult education and their transfer from one participating country to another, to support the development of new technology-based information content, service development, innovative teaching methods and practices for lifelong learning and to multiply pedagogical approaches to improve management and adult education organizations.

Some of the projects developed by the association are:

  1. Bihor County - A Clean Environment Through Everyone’s Concern - the selective collection of waste PET bottles and paper, a project within Tara lui Andrei campaign, the Your Town section supported by Petrom in January 2010.

  2. Project „Green Island of Small Sportpersons” within the Green Space Programme  - Request for funding for Urban Green Space component, Partnership Foundation (Moll Romania)

  3. How High Would You Get - Health by Climbing - project grants submitted within local budget funds of Oradea city

  4. The First Step - Together We Protect Nature in public education and awareness programs for environmental protection, coordinated and funded by the Environment Fund Administration-September 2010

  5. We Also Need Grass - a competition to identify environmental problems in rural communities from Romania - project developed by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (NACAB) and Save the Danube Delta Association (SDS). Ulpianum Sports Club was nominated for the problem identified. The idea was published in May 2010 their Compendium of rural ecology;

  6. Eco Friends Hopscotch - a project initiated by the French Embassy in Romania, Cooperation et Action Cultural Service

  7. Grundtvig Learning Partnership, in ecology - in Grundtvig, for adult learning throughout life, funded by the European Commission, along with seven European countries (Poland, Italy, Germany, Slovenia, Spain, Greece and Turkey). This project will be submitted for consideration on 21 February 2011. If approved, the partnership will begin in August and will last two years.

Ulpianum Sports Club is supported mainly from membership dues, donations and sponsorships but also recyclable waste recovery activities as part of the results of environmental education supported by our association.

Sports Club Ulpianum Oradea is guided by the following motto: „Sport gives days of life and living today”.

In our future work we want to act in the spirit of JJ Rousseau,who once said: „If you want to have an intelligent and endowed child you must help him develop the force that the intellignce will nurture to him/her, make him/her healthy and robust to become wise and court … let him/her work, get used to act. Have him/her move a lot. If physically a strong man, (s)he will soon become strong and intellectually endowed.”

Nice ryde !

Your story is reall inspiring.

You prove that, when you care about people around you, everything makes sense. And the more you help things get better, the better you are and feel.

There’s something amazing about your story, it’s how one person succeeded to involve others, and quickly to find others strenghts and willings.

Do you know ?

I’d like to get this project running in the high school I work in, but after talking to teachers, it appears it would be quite difficult to do. But maybe you could make use of it. It’s a really nice project I’m strongly thinking about contributing to, probably for the summer days. :slight_smile:

Also, you story reminded me somehow this video :

I just love this spirit.

Something doesn’t work well, let’s fix it !

We need somethin ? Let’s see how we can make it.

You did the same in your city.

Nothing to recycle ? Let’s do it !

Good job man !