Finding Hope in Romania’s Suffering Communities - Divine Mercy University

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Finding Hope in Romania’s Suffering Communities


A group from the Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies (CTRS) at Divine Mercy University traveled to the country of Romania for an immersion and educational experience over the summer to assist local communities with various outreach organizations. Romania is at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, lying adjacent to the Black Sea, and is home to the seventh largest population in the European Union that’s incredibly diverse. 

“There is a lot of need in Romania,” said Dr. Benjamin Keyes, Director of the CTRS, who has traveled to Romania previously. “They have been through a lot as a country and the conditions are getting increasingly difficult to live and work. There is much to be done to support the local communities who are suffering.”

During the two-week trip, the group of 21 students and professionals–which included Dr. Kathie Erwin and Dr. Benjamin Keyes from Divine Mercy University, Dr. Kim Harris from the Green Cross Academy of Traumatology, and Dr. Kathy Averson of Regent University–worked alongside the Smiles Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to relieve poverty and advance education in the local communities. The Smiles Foundation is doing God’s work in a place where there are not many services available to the community. By providing presentations and training on various aspects of trauma, the team was able to address many relevant topics for the community.  For many, understanding the impact of grief and loss, compassion fatigue, and how to work with families and children who have been traumatized provides an educational foundation on which to grow the infrastructure of their outreach programs and better serve the community needs.

Encountering and spending time with the various communities had a tremendous impact on the DMU group. M.S. in Counseling student Rose Bond shared some of her own insights working in the community.

“Romania has a diverse population of many cultures,” she said, “I visited a school and totally enjoyed the children. Being a child at heart, I soon found myself playing soccer with the children and trying to keep up with their energy levels.” 

Anthony Flores, M.S. in Counseling student who has traveled to many locations with the CTRS, reflected about his experience in Romania.

“I’m asked all the time about my favorite part of this deployment, and every time my answer remains the same: the people. More specifically a little girl, no older than 5 years old in a Gypsy village infested with flies and a terrible stench. In the midst of it all, there she was with the most beautiful brown eyes and softest of smiles. She was so happy and joyful that it filled me with joy. In that moment I realized that I went to Romania to make a difference to the people there, I didn’t expect them to impact my life the way they did. It is beyond words.” 

The DMU students who participated in the two-week immersion received 100-120 direct hours with 20-30 hours of supervision, which can be applied to their Clinical Traumatologist certification through the Green Cross Academy of Traumatology. Next year, a group will travel to Kenya to provide trainings to pastors, priests, hospital clinics and the community.  

For more information on the Center for Trauma & Resiliency Studies, visit

To read the live blog of the students while in Romania, visit here.

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