Hannah Willage: Training community organizers from Romania and Hungary

Associate Director Hannah Willage returned Monday from central Europe, where she spent 16 days teaching community organizing through the Great Lakes Consortium (GLC) for International Training and Development. Through the program, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) has hosted hosted eight organizers since 2012, and four CCH organizers have traveled to Europe to train community groups there. 

Hannah offers these observations upon her return.

As I return from Hungary and Romania, I realize what a privilege it was to both host and be hosted by Johanna Laszlo and Ionela Ciolan to work them on building skills for community organizing.

I enjoyed my time mentoring them in Chicago, teaching them about how we do things at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and answering their many questions about community organizing. During our time, they also begin to share stories with me about their work and their countries. 

Just a few weeks after they departed, I was able to reunite with them and see their lives up close.

Hannah Willage at one of her training sessions
Hannah Willage (far right) at one of her training sessions in Romania, including Ionela Ciolan (second from right).

In Bucharest, Romania, I trained the members of Amnesty International Romania that Ionela Ciolan organizes. The training included topics of power and building relationships.

Ionela is interested in strengthening her group. It was great to see first hand how she works with her leaders, their mutual respect for each other is wonderful. The leaders enjoyed the training and had insightful feedback on how they learned to build intentional relationships through the workshop.

Next I was on to Budapest, Hungary, to work with the members of the Hungarian Anti-Poverty Network that Johanna Laszlo organizes. Johanna brings together a network of service providers and grassroots leaders to address issues facing low-income people.

It was great to meet Johanna’s leaders and learn about how they address issues of poverty in Hungary. The group was engaged in learning about how to break down a problem into a solvable issue. They worked well in small groups to dive in and start the hard work that builds a foundation to winning a campaign.

This fellowship was so meaningful for me to be able to bring the skills that I have developed over the last 13 years to new countries and work with two young women that I respect and admire to deepen their work. I am excited for our on-going partnership in the future.