McDaniel students in Budapest were presented with an interesting learning opportunity when they were invited to volunteer at the Housing Forum for Europe and Central Asia that was held April 4-6. The conference addressed housing-related issues such as disaster response, sustainability, social exclusion, marginalized groups, and people with lack of access to services.
“Many thanks to Dr. Matthew Adamson for turning our rather simple request for student volunteers into such a creative learning opportunity for them,” said McDaniel College trustee Barbara Thomas, who is currently working for Habitat for Humanity International in Bratislava and was part of the conference’s project team. “I was so impressed with the students’ enthusiasm, grace and willingness to do anything we asked of them.”
Senior Mona Monsefi heard about the opportunity from Dr. Matthew Adamson, the Director of Academic and Student Affairs at McDaniel College Budapest.
“I’ve always wanted to experience projects like this conference, I found this opportunity exciting and decided to take part in it,” said Monsefi.
She worked with another McDaniel senior, Ali Dowlaty, as a photographer at the conference, and found the experience very rewarding.
Students who participated were offered the chance to earn college credits as part of an independent study that would culminate in a research paper about the topic of the conference, the widespread problem of substandard housing in Europe and Central Asia.
“It’s not only a big problem, but a complex problem,” explained György Sümegy, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Hungary, who added that with Hungary in the presidential seat of the European Union, this was the perfect time to host an international conference.
As Sümegy explained, complex problems can only be solved by a complex approach with the involvement of many organizations. Four organizations- Habitat for Humanity in Europe and Central Asia, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Crescent Societies (IFRC), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNEC), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)- held the Housing Forum.
“NGOs themselves cannot solve these big, complex issues, but we need a dialogue with national and global governments as well,” said Mr. Sümegy.
With delegates from many international organizations and the patronage of the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, this dialogue is exactly what the participants in the conference strove to initiate.
“Governments are listening. Governments are interested,” said Graham Saunders, head of the IFRC’s Shelter Department. “It is beyond the capacity of resources of a single government.”
Saunders noted the need for cooperation, adding that “the onus is on all of us.”