Glynn Scholar Explores Romanian Volunteerism amid the Ukraine Crisis

Author: Jillian Snyder

Ese Onosen Omoijuanfo Seated With Romanians In A Living Room

When Glynn Scholar Ese Omoijuanfo was growing up in Benin, West Africa, she encountered many volunteers, including several from Romania. But Ese soon learned that these volunteers were the exception. Volunteering was not a priority in Romania, many of them told her. By the time Ese came to Notre Dame, anecdote had become fact. During her studies for her minor in International Development Studies, she learned that Romania had some of the lowest levels of volunteerism across Europe.

Ese’s curiosity led her to study this phenomenon by visiting Romania itself. In Summer and Fall 2022, with funding from the Glynn Family Honors Program, she spent several weeks working alongside Romanian volunteers and Ukrainian refugees, interviewing both about their experiences. The focus of Ese’s research concerns the motivations for volunteering, especially in regions with low social trust. This lack of trust combined with low prosocial action can be dire for refugees and host countries alike, especially during crises like the war in Ukraine.

Ese Onosen Omoijuanfo Talking With Romanians In A Living Room

Ese’s research has distinctly shaped her future plans, including her senior thesis and preparations for medical school. Her experience in Romania is for her, a “powerful reminder that at the end of the day the opportunity to participate in academics at an elite university, do research, and pursue higher education is an enormous privilege–one that I refuse to let go to waste.” After completing medical school, Ese hopes to serve communities in need and help cultivate leaders who can empower those around them. She remarks, “There is a lot of need in the world, although it can feel overwhelming, that doesn't mean we can overlook it.”