Day 3, Monday 6th February, Evening
All congregated in the hotel lobby sorting out the supplies that we brought out with us for further distribution throughout the week. Thanks to everyone who gave us gifts to bring out!
Day 3, Monday 6th February, Afternoon Visit 1
The TB Clinic was the first stop of the afternoon & the students particularly enjoyed seeing the babies who were here. Shoes, nappies, toiletries and night clothes were bought for the children who are here. They were grateful for the gifts but, more importantly, they were very pleased to see visitors – as many of their parents live a distance away.
Day 3, Monday 6th February, Afternoon Visit 2
Our last visit today was the St Treime Shelter for older ladies. Ten ladies live here and they each live in one room, where they sleep, cook, watch television. Many of them do not have family in Romania as so many have emigrated.
They each received a substantial food parcel, which would last them approximately one month. They also received a cash donation of £10 each (50 Romanian lei); they were all so appreciative of this as many are in poor health & they said they can use this to put towards purchasing much needed medication.
Day 4, Tuesday 7th February, Morning Visit
This morning we headed off in very cold conditions of minus 11; however the sun was shining and the sky was blue. Our bus driver tells us it will be minus 20 tomorrow!!
After calling to the Metro to purchase supplies, our first stop was Bradet Orphanage. The children here range from 7 to 17. Their conditions range from mild behavioural problems, to severe autism. All have been abandoned by their parents because of their conditions – so they’re not really orphans as such.
Those, who are able, produce goods for sale in their craft shop and our students were delighted to part with their cash here – while our resident guitarist entertained with the guitar.
Cleaning supplies, toiletries, fresh fruit and stationery were purchased for Bradet and we all feel they’re going to a deserved place. It was great to see many of them wearing the shoes we had brought with us a few years back.
Our autistic friend who was sent here by his well-to-’do’, social climbing parents who hadn’t the time or strength of character to cope with a disabled child. Money was not an issue for them, unlike many of the other parents who drop their children off here. The sad thing is that this child has never been visited by his mummy or daddy – despite their empty promises. In their absence and in an environment totally void of stimulation, his autism has become more pronounced and he doesn’t even play with the shoe lace which acted as his ‘security blanket’ when we first met him a few years ago.
Unlike in great places like Rathore in Newry, educationalists in Romania have yet to realise the benefits of music and other sensory techniques for the autistic child. One hopes this will eventually become the norm when dealing with conditions like autism and these children make some progress.
Our students were all keen to know why were so many autistic children abandoned and were shocked to hear that many families here were ashamed to have a child with any form of disability. Others simply leave them here because they are considered a financial drain, rather than a financial asset, to their families.
Day 4, Tuesday 7th February, Afternoon Visit 1
After lunch we mcdonald’s, we made our way to the Day Centre in Prejmer which is a very poor village. The students were pleased to see some of the children who they had met at Luncan School yesterday again.
We brought about 50 pairs of new shoes, fruit, biscuits, stationery and then personal gifts and it was amazing to see how the children queued up here to receive their ‘parcels’.
The students then spent time colouring in, painting and making masks with the children – an enjoyable activity.
Next, the Romanian children did a traditional Romanian dance for their guests; Claire O’Callaghan and Helena Grimes returned the favour with some Irish Dancing. The leaders of the centre were very happy with the time we spent here and it was time well spent.
Day 4, Tuesday 7th February, Afternoon Visit 2
While the main group was in the centre, some of the teachers visited 2 of the poorest houses in the village. They were all given food parcels and the teachers were shocked at the living conditions, which were cramped, damp and dirty. It was an experience, and indeed a privilege, to be welcomed into these homes.
Day 4, Tuesday 7th February, Afternoon Visit 3
Last stop today was the ‘gypsy village’ where we brought supplies inside the local church for distribution. To say the whole village appeared would be an understatement!
The parents and children queued to receive a packet of biscuits, an apple, an orange and a banana each. It was a manic hour and we eventually managed to get leaving the village at 5.30pm to head back to the hotel.
Day 5, Wednesday 8th February, Morning Visits
We visited two different orphanages this morning and brought many of them out for their lunch in McDonalds. Both 'orphanages' are located in Timis and have adults with severe intellectual disabilities. It is sad to think of these people with no visitors or freedom.
It was a culture shock for all our students to see the severity of these people's conditions and how excited they were to get out for an hour to McDonalds. In Romania, only the well-off would dine here and it's considered quite expensive. Upon leaving for our outing one young woman took a particular shine to Helena Grimes and wouldn't let go of her hand; she wasn't one of the ones selected by the directors of the orphanage to go.
In many of the rooms we went into the people were tied to their chairs and had bruises and cuts on their faces and bodies. Most shocking of all was how thin they were. No wonder they were delighted to get out to McDs.
The boys were very happy to see some of them putting on Celtic and Manchester United jerseys straight away. This certainly brought colour to the dullness of these places.
McDonalds went down well with our guests and Nicole Donnelly provided great fun and entertainment for the guest at her table.
Fresh fruit, cleaning supplies and other food was purchased for these orphanages. However, the Happy Meals may have been the best purchase of the day.
Day 5, Wednesday 8th February, Afternoon Visit
The whole group spent the afternoon in Christiana Nursing Home, which was a positive experience for all.
Like in nursing homes in Ireland, the residents here are no different in that they were happy to see young people and simply enjoyed sitting chatting.
Having brought in our supplies and spoken to all those who had gathered in the visitors room to meet us, we were formally introduced to the oldest resident there, a 91 year old war veteran who was detained for 4 years by the communist regime in the Caucaucian Region. We enjoyed hearing about his experience.
We all interacted with the residents there and then, as has become customary; we put on entertainment in the form of song and dance.
We all left here in a positive frame of mind and it was great to see pictures up of our last visit. The display of these proves how appreciative these people are of these visits.
Day 6, Thursday 9th February, Morning Visit 1
The bulk of the group spent the morning in Tarlungei Orphanages for boys and girls. These are beautiful houses side-by-side where all thirty children are very well cared for and happy. The chainsaw and the shed purchased for there last year were checked on and were being put to good use in this cold weather.
After delivering supplies, we rotated between the two houses, distributing gifts, playing games and generally interacting with the kids here.
Ionut was one of the lovely boys we met here. He and his three brothers stay in the boys' house, while his four sisters live next door in the girls' section. He was very keen that we met them all and was so proud standing beside them all for pictures. While looking through my camera he showed interest in the pictures of Codlea, where we went at the start of the week. This is because next year he will be moving on to there, but away from his siblings.
Day 6, Thursday 9th February, Afternoon Visit
After lunch and a bit of a sing-off in Deane's, the bus was held up by Ms O’Neill and Mrs O'Neill doing some shopping! They returned to a 'bus disco' led by Cathy, Leanne and Michelle.
The group went to two neighbouring orphanages called Cip and Dale, located in Secale. Twenty four boys live here aged 5 to 14. To say these places were lively is an understatement!
Like at home, music brings people together and we have all become very accomplished impromptu singers and dancers at this stage; with the boys being as good as the girls! An entertaining spectacle of hip hop and break dancing took place.
We returned to the hotel tired, but in good spirits singing Bon Jovi at the top of our voices!