Annual Report 2017

1 Cross of Nails East European Conference
In 1996 a Cross of Nails was presented to the SHARE project by Coventry Cathedral in acknowledgement that our work in the areas of health, the family and with churches of many denominations was being undertaken in the spirit of the Cathedral’s ministry of reconciliation supported by members of the Cathedral congregation.

(left to right) Bishop Christopher Klein, Jane Williams talking with Geoff & Gill Kimber, Erika Klemm blew the shofar in celebration (a ram’s horn trumpet).

That cross was held originally in the SHARE house at Cisnadioara. In 2006 the cross was re-dedicated and presented to the Ecumenical Institute that is affiliated to the University of Sibiu. Today it is cared for by the prayer group Ora et Labora (Work and Prayer) that was established by Erika Klemm and the cross of nails stands on the altar of St John’s Chapel which is close by the Institute. There are more than 200 organisations across the world that belong to the Community of the Cross of Nails (CCN), and in July 2017 for the first time the East European members of the CCN held their conference in Sibiu. At the invitation of the current Lutheran Bishop Guib they met in the Diocesan Building on the Great Square, Sibiu. Members came from different parts of Poland, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, the United Kingdom and Romania.

(left to right) Jost Hasselhorn (Germany) at a conference workshop, Dominik (Poland) the chairman,
Canon Sarah Hills (Coventry), Martin R Williams.

The conference also found time to celebrate the many years that Ora et Labora has been responsible for the cross of nails. SHARE was represented by Martin and Jane Williams and the Revs Geoff and Gill Kimber, who all gave presentations about the work carried out in our name. You may recall that the Kimbers were sponsored by Church Mission (formerly CMS) and for 5 years they worked closely and taught with the church groups around Sibiu, and later in Alba Iulia. Rev Canon Sarah Hills represented Coventry Cathedral.

The celebrations were attended by Bishop Guib and also by the previous bishop,Bishop Christopher Klein, who with the late Bishop Colin Bennetts from Coventry and the Sibiu Metropolitan Bishop was present in 2006 when the cross was re-dedicated. Both bishops addressed the gathering and included words of praise and encouragement for the work carried out by SHARE.

2 The Bianca Project
Seven years ago, five newly qualified Occupational Therapy and two Physiotherapy volunteers travelled to Sibiu to work at Speranta Children’s Centre for six weeks during the summer of 2010. The Bianca Project is named after a girl who was supported by the Romanian Charity ASCENSIUM set up and funded by SHARE. She was born in the local maternity hospital with severe brain damage. Her parents were very poor and lived in a small flat on
the top floor of a block of flats that is now used for student accommodation.

Back in 1994 a baby like Bianca was likely to be abandoned by her parents because of her disability and because of the lack of support and money to care for her. The staff of ASCENSIUM visited Bianca and her parents regularly and provided support and equipment. When in 2006 Romania joined the EU much of the funding for ASCENSIUM disappeared, and this support had to cease. Soon afterwards Bianca was removed from her parents’ home by Social Services and she was placed in the care of Speranta – a home for children with complex needs and severe disabilities. In 2010 the Bianca project was an experiment by SHARE as we looked for new ways to help and support Romanian families and children. The experiment proved to be a great success and thanks to some of the volunteers who have continued to be part of it (volunteers like Lawrence and Lindsay, Sam and Sarah), the “experiment” has blossomed into an annual programme, and has improved year on year.

2017 is the eighth year that SHARE has run the Bianca Project and this year we sponsored 7 newly qualified Occupational Therapists and Speech and Language Therapists to spend a four week period in August working at Speranta. For a second year we had 7 therapy volunteers from previous years who gave up their annual leave and
provided valuable support to the new therapists. Four of our Trustees, Sarah, Lawrence, Samantha and Lindsay also took annual leave from their work to act as supervisors again. The Supervision has been highlighted in
the volunteers’ reflections as being very valuable.

The number of children in the Centre is consistent with last year. A number of the older children have left and have been moved to an adult institution. There are some much younger children in the Centre with more complex disabilities. While the therapists are at the centre they are able to spend valuable time with each individual child, allowing the children to use the sensory room on site and teaching them basic skills designed to improve their independence. This year the volunteers had completed degree courses in Birmingham, Cardiff and Sheffield Universities.

The Bianca Project has two major benefits. Firstly, it provides wonderful experiences for the children in the Centre and helps to prepare them to be independent when they reach adulthood. Secondly, participation in the Bianca Project has proved to be a life-changing experience for many of the volunteers. Each volunteer paid £500.00 towards their costs. The cost to SHARE was £6987.00

Father Simeon (a Deputy representing the District Council), Erika Klemm (on behalf of the Lutheran Bishop) and Daniel Toader (Director of SPERANTA) at the ceremony to deliver certificates to the volunteers. The civic authorities wanted this event to help locally to raise the profile of volunteering.


Here are some quotes from reflections written by this year’s volunteers:

“Ultimately the most rewarding part of this experience was seeing the smiles on the children’s faces grow bigger and bigger as time progressed and to see the gradual improvements in their communication.”

“This has given me a lot more confidence in myself as a clinician and helped prepare me adequately for my new post as a qualified SLT” ……

“Volunteering on the Bianca Project is one, if not the most, rewarding and special experiences I have been on and I cannot wait to return to Speranta next year and spend more time with the amazing children”.

“As a newly qualified therapist I think this experience was a perfect bridge between university and full time work. ….. It also gave me experience of working with really complex children and a difficult environment which really tested my problem solving and teamwork skills.”

“I don’t think the trip would have run as smooth as it did if we didn’t have leaders.”

“I feel reflection was vital towards my learning and reflective skills as a practitioner. The group was very cohesive from the start which made it feel a very safe environment to express your worries, ask for help, share memories and progress.”

“During my time in Romania I applied for a job working with children with complex needs. I feel as a direct result of the past few weeks I was a lot more confident in my interview and my passion was evident when talking about my work. I have just formerly accepted the job offer and will start next month. Not only did I have an amazing four
weeks but it also helped me to secure my dream job. So thank you SHARE for making this possible”.

3 The Dacia Project
Dacia is a small village in the countryside about two hours’ drive from Sibiu. It was originally a Saxon settlement with its own self-contained Lutheran community. It has its own medieval fortified church – one of 450 fortified churches across the region. The congregation has left the village, so today the church is empty – just like many
parts of the village. After the Romanian Revolution of December 1989 and having endured 25 years of poverty under President Ceausescu many of the inhabitants with German family links left Dacia to find work and a better life in Germany. They left behind a mixed collection of elderly members of families of Saxon heritage, a few Hungarians and some Roma.

The SHARE volunteers met some of the village children at the Dacia school room.

The project in Dacia was started by Frank Roth, a social worker from Dresden, and he sought to restore a sense of community to the village, helping the different ethnic groups to work together. He persuaded the small church community to permit him access to the old parish rooms, and with the help of many other supporters he has converted them into basic hostel accommodation. Volunteer groups have been able to stay at the hostel and help elderly residents to restore and maintain their properties. There is no piped water in the village so volunteer groups have helped to dig fresh wells in places. Frank’s work is supported by the German Community of the Cross of Nails, and the parish rooms also house a cross of nails from  Coventry Cathedral.

(left to right) (1) farmworkers returning from the fields around Dacia, (2) SHARE volunteers with Fritz (our host) in the garden of Dacia parish room hostel, (3) the animals return home from the fields each evening.

SHARE is supporting work with the children of Dacia. To save money some years ago in the world economic recession the Romanian Government closed all village schools with fewer than 200 pupils, and sacked almost 20,000 teachers. The impact on poor villages like Dacia was to force children to travel to the nearest school town often many miles away. In theory education is free and that includes transport, but in practice the schools have insufficient money to cover travel costs. So the village children stay at home.

In Dacia the project has created a small school room where a Montessori trained teacher offers additional teaching (and sometimes the only teaching) to local children. SHARE contributes towards the cost of the lunches that are provided to the children who attend.

In 2017 the SHARE therapy volunteers were able to visit Dacia for a weekend. A stay in Dacia is an experience in itself! Minimal bathroom facilities, basic food, the sight of rundown buildings, holes in the roofs and roads, horse drawn carts and the appearance at around 8pm each evening of the herd of village cows, horses and buffaloes returning from the fields – each of them finding their own way home without anyone directing them! What a simple way of life, and such a contrast not only with life in the UK but also with the grand buildings of the historic city of Sibiu. The foreign tourists who throng the Sibiu streets are probably unaware that while they take their photos of Sibiu’s fountains, almost half the villages of Romania are without running water. And those villages without water can be found just a few miles outside the city. A stay in Dacia offers the outsider a reality check. It helps an understanding of the poverty facing country people across Romania – people who make up 40% of the
country’s population. SHARE donated £1050 towards the Dacia Project in 2016.

4 The Jacodu Project
“Love Light Romania” is a charitable project in rural Romania with which Jane Williams of SHARE was in touch many years ago and with which contact has been renewed in recent years. The village of Jacodu is several miles  nto the countryside outside the town of Medias. Ron and Jo Jowett from the UK started the work. They live in the village of Ighisu Nou where they run a house called “The Sanctuary” offering care and support to people with HIV. They also live and work in the village of Jacodu, and in 2017 we were able to visit them there together with the SHARE volunteers.

(left) Jacodu – a family visit with SHARE volunteers (right) Jo explained to us the current work to create living
accommodation for future volunteers

The Jacodu project supports 52 children in this isolated village. The aim is to nurture them away from their present wild lifestyle and to provide education, training and lifestyle opportunities that will break the cycle of poverty in which they live. Life opportunities is the name of the game. The project has built an education centre for teaching and a nursery, a workshop for practical training and a second-hand shop that enables villagers to buy clothing that they could not otherwise afford. Space is being created for visiting volunteers who come to
help the work. It may be possible in the future for SHARE volunteers to work more closely with this project.

(left) SHARE Volunteers meeting with Jacodu villagers (right) visiting the second hand shop in the village

Slowly the project is tackling the village homes that need repair and those that lack basic facilities. The villagers and their children are always treated with respect, and the hope is to empower them to realise their potential and in this way to break the cycle of deprivation and eradicate poverty in future generations. The older children are taught woodworking and sewing skills that will help them to find employment in the future. Prince Charles has a home in this region and he has done much to help villages in rural Romania to survive. This summer Ron and Jo were invited with other charities to a seminar organised by Prince Charles to explain the resources that are available to encourage the setting up of new rural enterprises in Romania. This is what they are doing in Jacodu.

We were made most welcome when we walked through Jacodu to meet residents in their homes. Love Light Romania offers no quick fix but Ron and Jo are there for the long haul, and they will get there in the end. At our request they have also been able to help particular children living at Speranta. SHARE donated £1000 to Love Light Romania in 2016.

SHARE volunteers and local children at Jacodu