Interview with Mihaela Rus, the president of AFA Cluj.
Who are the members of this association and what are its objectives?
Our association has no less than 74 lady members who are either running their own businesses or holding managing positions in various companies, or work as doctors, teachers, psychologists, jurists etc. All of them are active women and willing to participate in the change for the better of Cluj, a city which they love with all their hearts and which they respect. We are trying to fill the generation gap, to support talent, to invest in education and particularly to create a healthier and a more beautiful environment for us and for our children. I have seen in time that our example can convince and that many other ladies, business women, wish to join us so that the number or members will increase in the future.
You said that you are trying to fill the generation gap, to support talent and to invest in education. Could you give us an example?
One example is the AFA Trophy – Excellence in education, which was given to meritorious young people – M.A. students, Ph. D. students or young researchers from various faculties in Cluj (The Faculty of Mathematics – Informatics, The Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, The Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, The Faculty of European Studies).
After a long period of silence, the first important media event of the association was the one that included the AFA Gala and the unique show of Dan Puric, which hosted 800 participants. When was the association founded and why did you decide to draw the attention of the inhabitants of Cluj?
As you said, the Association of the Business Women from Cluj reunited more than 800 participants at the Gala that took place at the Hungarian Opera on 9 November 2010. The host of the AFA Gala was the famous TV presenter Catalin Stefanescu, and the special guest for our event was Dan Puric, whose one hour and a half show was highly acclaimed by the vast audience. It was the first ample media event organised by AFA during the six years of existence. It was a gala without prizes or laureates. It was our first gala and we organised it for those we love, for the worthy people of Cluj, to whom we wanted to offer a show and whom we wanted to convince to help us and to get involved in our projects.
One of the achievements of the association was the sum of more than 10.000 euros raised by AFA Cluj for UPU Cluj. Could you give us a few details about the fund raising event?
The small New Year’s Eve party organised by AFA Cluj 2010 gathered, on 11 December 2010, more than 200 guests determined to help us provide the technical apparatuses for the Emergency Room of the Children Hospital Cluj (UPU Children, Cluj). During what we called “and event full of passion, generosity and an auction to the rhythm of tango”, the lady members of AFA Cluj donated artistic creations and various valuable objects from their personal collections in order to raise the money for UPU Cluj. These donations were auctioned by the guests and the final sum was greater than 10.000 euros.
We wish to thank from all our hearts all those who answered our invitation and proved that solidarity and generosity are the qualities of strong people, who know to bring happiness around them. It was probably the first time that our city hosted such an ample event, full of profound emotion and implying the rediscovery of human values which seemed long forgotten. The people of Cluj reinvented the joy of giving and this was proven by every gesture of those who participated in the event – the young members of the dance club Diamond Dance, coordinated by the choreographers Zita and Alexandru Acs, the vocal group Anatholis, those who donated various objects and those who bought the art objects which were auctioned. And this fact, the passion of all those involved in this event organised by AFA, was definitely the main characteristic of that evening.
The inhabitants of Cluj answered our request to support a noble cause – that of providing high quality equipment for the children’s ward of UPU Cluj, and the raised sum is the proof that when it comes to solidarity the people from Cluj do not remain indifferent. The auction had a discreet tone, but it was a real “fight” for some of the objects, which proves that they were justly valued. A moving moment was created when one of the raffle prizes – a Christmas tree – was immediately donated by the winner to the children form the hospital in order to cheer up their winter holidays. The event also set several records: none of the seats remained empty, 59 objects were donated and adjudicated and the final sum donated to UPU was more than 10.000 euros. At a time when selfishness, the lack of moral values and unified thinking and action seem to have left their marks on the life of the community, AFA gave a lesson of solidarity, of human warmth and of passion. And the children’s ward of UPU Cluj received an unexpected but well deserved present for the winter holidays.
Which was the actual form that the effort of AFA Cluj to support the Emergency Room of the Children Hospital from Cluj took?
We used the funds raised during the AFA event in December 2010, more precisely almost half a milliard lei, for ordering the technical equipment indicated as necessary by Daniel Nour, doctor and UPU coordinator, namely 6 ambulatory infusion pumps, and a medical device stand docking station. We paid a certain amount in advance and the apparatuses were expected to arrive on 31 January 2011 from London. On 15 March 2011 we completed the donation for the Emergency Room of the Children Hospital from Cluj. During the press conference which was held at the Children Hospital we signed the donation act for the 6 infusion pumps and the mobile docking station. We felt very moved when the doctors Lazar Calin and Daniel Nour thanked us in the name of the little patients who would benefit from this donation.
After giving a hand with the provision of the Emergency Room of the Children Hospital from Cluj, AFA decided to offer its support for the reconstruction of the Botanical Garden. Why did you choose the Botanical Garden?
The idea came up while we were reminiscing about various things from our adolescence. Almost all the ladies in AFA Cluj had a special moment in their lives which was connected with the Botanical Garden. While we were talking about these things, we realised that, in fact, the Botanical Garden is practically connected through an invisible net to almost every inhabitant of Cluj, that it is simply part of our lives. The only problem is that, for various reasons, the Garden no longer looks as we remember it; it seems to have lost some of its past charm. So the decision came in a natural way. We had to do something so that this miniature green paradise would become again the most beautiful and important place for walking and relaxation both for the citizens and for the tourists.
What is the specific aim of this project?
As I’ve said before, the idea of supporting the Botanical Garden corresponds to the mission AFA Cluj – that of supporting the local community in very tangible ways. Once the idea became clear, we analysed the state of the Garden and we identified four main objectives whose final aim is to increase the number of visitors: to reconstruct the Japanese Garden, to replace the markings in this area, and to add plates with the names of the plants in Braille, to provide a relaxation area for the blind and to repair and to relocate the old statues from the Botanical Garden. Finally, we prepared a proposal of collaboration with “Babes-Bolyai” University, which seemed opened to suggestions and ready to support our project.
Which are the main strategies that you developed in order to carry out your plans?
First of all, in May, we launched the campaign “A city for a garden” and the first step consisted in a photographic contest entitled “Snapshoot the Botanical Garden!” which ended on 12 June 2011. This contest was meant to draw the public attention on the Garden so that more and more people would visit it and bring it to life. The second aim of the contest was to encourage the artistic creation since many young and older people are keen on photography and prove to be very talented.
We thought of an interactive contest on Facebook which was a great success. Many young people went to the Botanical Garden to take pictures which they then posted on the Facebook page of AFA Cluj, in the special section dedicated for this contest. At some point, we had 2.600 friends who were constantly checking our page and admiring the approximately 200 contest photos and that were all wonderful.
A jury presided by the university lecturer Eugen Moritz, Ph .D., from the University of Arts and Design, and including Eugen Olariu, photo reporter for Ziua de Cluj, Mircea Albu, representative of BBU, Mihai Puscas, researcher at the Botanical Garden, Ruxandra Hurezeanu, journalist, and Pierina Vintila and Cristina Mihaela Pop, representatives of AFA Cluj, studied all the competing photos and chose the winners. AFA Cluj decided to set aside more than 5.000 lei for prizes, a sum which was divided among eight winners, three of them from the “Adults” section, three from the “Children” section, and two winners selected by the public on Facebook through the number of ‘likes’ received by the posted photos. We intend to gather all these photos in an album which is to be sold, and the money used for the reconstruction of the Garden.
Which were the next stages of this campaign?
The prizes were awarded on 16 June 2011, during a soiree that took place at the Botanical Garden. We must add that 40 of the most beautiful photos were displayed on the alleys of the Botanical Garden. The exhibition was complemented by an herbal fair; the bouquets and the plants for sale had been provided by the Botanical Garden. The AFA Cluj soiree, which rounded up the event, offered the local community the chance to take part in the reconstruction of the Garden. We therefore organised two silent auctions which had in view the finalist photos for the contest “Snapshoot the Botanical Garden!” and a collection of rare plants donated by the Botanical Garden.
During the soiree we also launched the programme The Green Fund, a financial mechanism dedicated to the reconstruction of the Garden and to supporting the local ecological enterprises. We wanted our guests to become friends of the Botanical Garden and to get involved in this project.
Who will help you complete these tasks and in what way?
We collaborate with young members of the group The Green Volunteer AFA. This is a different project of the campaign “A city for a Garden”, which offers the inhabitants of Cluj the possibility to give a hand with the reconstruction of the most beautiful place from Cluj and to get involved in the future ecological projects of the association. Furthermore, we devised a playful way of involving as many citizens as possible in this campaign, which is called “Give the Little Green Card!” It’s a green card on which we printed several amusing and witty messages and which can be given to one’s acquaintances, to colleagues, to friends, as a token of appreciation. Such a card costs 1 leu and the owners automatically become friends of the Botanical Garden. The members of AFA Cluj have already distributed several cards of this type which proved to be very successful.
What could the other citizens and other people do in order to help the Botanical Garden?
First of all, visit the Botanical Garden. If they wish, they could also make donations for the Green Fund, whose account number can be found on the internet page of our association, www.afacj.ro. Any ticket you buy, any plant you buy and any sum you donate represent priceless help for the Botanical Garden.
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