The mission of UUCF’s Partner Church program is to develop long-term, mutually supportive relationships with Unitarians in Szentgerice, Transylvania, Romania, and the Khasi Hills of India.
The Partner Church Circle administers UUCF’s Partner Church program with the following focus:
- Strengthening the bonds of friendship between members of UUCF and the people of Szentgerice and Puriang;
- Promoting an exchange of people and ideas;
- Providing funds and other forms of assistance to help directly the Unitarian churches and schools of Szentgerice and Puriang; and
- Providing funds and other forms of assistance to both village communities to improve the quality of life of all inhabitants and foster economic development.
Szentgerice, Transylvania, Romania
UUCF has been a partner with the Unitarian church in Szentgerice, Transylvania, Romania, since October 1990. Our members also sponsor students at Unitarian schools at both locations. Click here to learn more about our Partner Church scholarship program. About 800 people live in the village of Szentgerice (the Romanian name for the village is Galateni). Almost 100 people from UUCF have visited and stayed in the village, usually as part of summer trips that happen about every 3 years. Many of the villagers and students have also come to the United States to stay with UUCF members.
The scholarship program in Szentgerice was started in 2001 and is the oldest of the Partner Church scholarship programs. It’s part of an enduring, 20-year-long partnership between UUCF and the Szentgerice Unitarian Church. The program has provided scholarships for more than 500 high school and college students in Transylvania.
Education in Romania is not free after the eighth grade, so the scholarship program helps students from the village complete their high school education at academic and trade schools. The scholarships cover about half the school fees.
The scholarships are coordinated by the Unitarian Church of Szentgerice. All Szentgerice youth living in the village are eligible to receive a scholarship. To apply, each student writes a letter of application and provides a letter of recommendation. After receiving a scholarship, the students participate in a community service activity and maintain a minimum grade level. Click here for more information on the Partner Church Scholarship Program.
The Janos Zsigmond Unitarius Kollegium high school in Kolozsvar, Transylvania
This is the top academic and oldest high school in Transylvania. Founded in 1557, it is also one of the oldest high schools in Europe and is located in the city of Kolozsvar (the Romanian name for the city is Cluj-Napoca).
The Kollegium enrolls 200 students from Transylvania, with an equal number of boys and girls. Although most of the students are Unitarian, the Kollegium admits qualified students from all religions. The majority of the students live at the school for all four years.Virtually all of the school’s graduates go on to a university and many have become community and business leaders in Transylvania. Students must pass a difficult entrance exam to be admitted to the school.
The UUCF scholarship is based on need and covers about 25% of a student’s expenses. Rev. Zsolt Solymosi, the vice principal of the school, describes the students as “great students who are financially very poor. Our school, and all the parents, are very grateful for this loyal commitment of UUCF to support education in Transylvania.”
UUCF’s partner church in India is in Puriang, a small village of about 1400. It is located in the remote Khasi Hill of northeastern India, in the state of Meghalaya – directly north of Bangladesh and south of Bhutan.
About a quarter of the villagers are Unitarians with most of the others attending Presbyterian and Catholic churches in the village. The villagers speak Khasi, and some speak English as well.
Puriang is a farming community. The village has electricity but no running water. In fact, the nearest source of water is 8 kilometers away. The people are warm and welcoming.
Our partner church is a simple concrete building marked by a flaming chalice on the top. Next to the church is a Unitarian school that serves about 300 students.
Puriang Unitarian School
Since 2005, UUCF has provided sponsorship funds to the teachers and students attending the Puriang Unitarian School. About 300 students attend the school, from nursery school to tenth grade.
The school is open to any child who wishes to attend, with students coming from Puriang and more than five other villages in the area. Conditions at the school are bleak with overcrowded classrooms, no bathroom or outhouse, and no school bus. Some of the children walk up to 2 hours each way to get to school.
American dollars go far in Puriang and the need is great. UUCF members and friends provide financial support to the school for the following:
- A salary supplement for each of the 10 teachers.
- To maintain a safe learning environment (the school buildings are in need of regular repair).
- A winter gift, such as a sweater or shawl, purchased in India and provided to each child and teacher at the end of the school year in December.