In December last year, Melania Medeleanu succeeded to raise 200,000 euro by a SMS campaign. In 23 days, MagicHOME campaign brought in Galateca art gallery, 636 people, who sat on that chair through every minute of every night of every day.
Artists, entrepreneurs, medical doctors, students, clerics of all religions, CEOs, young people, old people (Mr. Mihail Şora was seated on the chair a day before his 101st birthday!), former or current patients, parents who have lost children, Colectiv fire survivors, all gathered around for a good cause. And one of them left in Galateca the huge purple teddy bear you can see in our photo shooting.
OZB Magazine talked to Melania Medeleanu about MagicHOME, television, children, fund-raising and much more.
By Fulvia Meirosu
How did you start working in television? And how did you then get to be doing what you do know?
It was an unexpectedly smooth path – I was extremely lucky. I had the advantage of knowing right from the start the direction I wanted to follow and I didn’t waste too much time searching.
I was already practicing for what was to become my career for 22 years when I was just a little girl. I would cut up a cardboard box, I would paint it, I would make it into a television set and get inside it. Later, when it became reality and I got into that box through which you reach millions of people into their homes, I felt like a fish in the water.
I started with TV shows for teenagers, then entertainment shows and then, when I felt more drawn to the serious side of things, I changed direction. I was a news anchor for 15 years, I have moderated social and political shows, I have reported live from important events, I have learned to ask questions through which I could either draw attention to injustices or to emphasize someone’s value.
All these years have helped me prepare for what I’m doing now: the diction classes or public speaking classes, the media training I provide are all aimed at helping people to bring out the best in themselves and to let themselves be seen in their best version.
What are your parents like? Were they encouraging towards your interests?
I was a good kid but at the same time I had a very definite need for independence. It was not often that I would set myself a goal and not follow it. I was sometimes more and sometimes less open about this. My parents understood this about me and from then on they always told me what they really felt about things I was doing but at the same time gave me the freedom and confidence to follow my dreams.
What was the first TV show you presented like? How about the last one?
The first one was called “A crazy, crazy world” on Amerom TV. I was in highschool at the time and my colleagues kept asking me if I had a sister who worked in television – there was a huge difference between the chatty person on TV and the introvert along the school halls. Fast forward 22 years, while on my last news journal on Prima TV, I had the courage to express myself publicly, to say what I meant and, more importantly, to be not only a voice for my beliefs but also a voice for other people when necessary.
How did you start supporting social projects for children?
I had a peaceful life, a predictable professional trajectory and just about everything that a person could wish for within reasonable limits. But there was something missing and I didn’t know how to define it. I did recognize this hard to define factor when we crossed paths though. I wasn’t aware of it but I knew how to make a child laugh and bring comfort. And when a child did smile to me open heartedly and held my hand it was clear to me this was the new direction I was seeking. So I first started going to a children’s institution and then I went back to school – I completed a Masters in speech therapy so that I could teach kids how to speak. I built a social afterschool that is still functioning, 7 years later – 100 children are enrolled and in 2014 MagiCAMP came to life.
It started as a camp for children with cancer related conditions and developed from 32 kids in the first year to 220 currently. Nowadays, apart from children with cancer, kids who’ve suffered bad burns also come to the camp – Connectiv CAMP – and kids who have lost someone – Blue CAMP. And MagiCAMP is not any more just about “Joaca la greu” (“Playing hard”) our motto, but also about the individualized social aid that we can offer to children and their families: medication, access to second opinion, aid packages, and, most recently, MagicHOME, the refuge for parents.
How did you get the idea for the MagicHOME campaign? It is brilliant!
The success of this campaign was a consequence of the fact that the idea was very simple and easy to understand. We owe this idea to our friends from Jazz Communication. After we told them about the conditions and lack of facilities in hospitals for the parents of children diagnosed with cancer they decided to put this image at the center of the campaign – the parent basically lives on a chair during the entire medical treatment of their child. How do these parents sleep, where do they eat, where do they wash, where do they cry? Anyone who has sat on a hospital chair next to someone dear to them immediately understands what this is about. And it’s because of this familiarity of the situation that so many people supported the cause for a temporary living space like MagicHOME to be built, near the hospital for the parents.
We placed a chair and a hospital bed in Galateca art gallery and we promised we’d not get up until we brought together 100,000 people who would donate a monthly 2€ through sms. 23 days later we completed the strongest and most touching social campaign we’ve ever seen in Romania.
Artists, entrepreneurs, medical doctors, students, clerics of all religions, CEOs, young people, old people (Mr. Mihail Şora was seated on the chair a day before his 101st birthday!), former or current patients, parents who have lost children, Colectiv fire survivors, 636 people sat on that chair through every minute, of every night of every day, and further 1,185 were on a waiting list to continue sitting on the chair as long as it took for us to keep our promise.
The money we raised was used to start the renovation project for MagicHome and we hope that by spring the first parents will be able to be accommodated there. People who want to continue supporting the project can still send a text message with “MAGIC” at 8844. Or they can find other ways of getting involved on www.pentrumagichome.ro.
What is the project that you are most proud of?
I am most proud not of projects but of people. I am really happy when my students in Public Speaking can present eloquent ideas in public and then send me recordings with their speeches. I am proud of our team and of the hundreds of volunteers that have joined us in MagiCAMP, good people, dedicated, valuable. I am proud of the children that succeed in overcoming their fears and leave the camp much stronger and more confident in themselves.
How hard/easy is fund-raising in Romania? And how much/little has it helped you being a public person?
The most that the public person status can do is open a door. But there are far more important aspects to fund-raising than this. What matters is the trust that people grant you: the cause that you’re supporting, the relevance of this cause and, most importantly, the way you demonstrate your good will and competence.
What do you think is missing in Romanian television? What do you think is lacking in social/charity projects in Romania?
I think the NGO sector is lacking greater support from society at large and many of them lack the capacity to organize things so that they reach the next level. And the two are connected. Many NGOs can’t afford to hire professional people with relevant experience because there is still this mentality among the people who support NGOs that every penny should go exclusively to the beneficiaries – there is even sometimes a clause of not investing anything in human resources. But in order for the NGO’s work to be reflected in the results for beneficiaries it is essential to have a team that builds things. I hope there will be changes in time and the companies that support NGOs will regard them in the same way they do their own companies – to get results the first investment must be in its people.
Fortunately, for MagiCAMP we were lucky enough to find partners who understand that, so that starting with just a few volunteers, we are now up to 6 permanent members of the team.
As for television…I’ll just say “honesty”. That’s what I think is missing from some companies. And, unfortunately, this lack of honesty is doing great harm to the entire society. Individuals are not the only ones affected, but general public are affected.
How involved with the social/charitable projects are the companies and the people on the top Forbes and Capital (The richest people in Romania) lists?
I know companies who are extremely involved, contributing tens or hundreds of thousands of euro to social causes – Kaufland, Vodafone, C&A, Ikea, to name just a few, just as I know companies who are not yet aware of the possibility to redirect 20% of the profit tax to a social cause. Maybe that’s where we come in. We NGOs need to make it our duty to become more visible, to be more persuasive, to find more ways to show potential partners the benefits that our work has to both the beneficiaries of the social projects supported and to the company donating. A company’s staff can feel more invested when their company is involved in social causes.
What are your professional and personal plans for 2018?
I kept postponing a lot of projects for a long time. Both professional and personal. So I don’t dare say that 2018 will be THAT year. But I know for sure 2018 will be the year that I will learn to take more time to spend with the people I love. These past few years I have heard too often people who only learn to say I love you when it’s too late and they’re close to the end.
How does a day in your life look like?
I find it hard to define one single day – my days can be very different. Some days I’m busy with my training classes all day long and other days I am on camp surrounded by children, with a big smile on my face, while some days I’m in the office, with the entire team, answering emails or speaking with sponsors. There are also days when I don’t leave the house, searching for hours for the right words for a speech I have to give and for which I never feel fully prepared.
How important is family to you?
I think family is important to all of us and it’s a shame that, nowadays it seems, we have less and less time available for our loved ones.
I confess I would like us to spend more evenings at home. Unfortunately we spend our evenings more and more on the streets, shouting in the name of justice, than at home, whispering to our folks how much we love them.
What is your favourite subject that you could speak non-stop for 24 hours?
Regina Maria. Or MagiCAMP.