Annual Report 2018
1 The Bianca Project
In 2010, 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. 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 used today for student accommodation. Back in 1994 (and sadly it is still the position today) 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 Lindsay, Sam , Chloe, Abi, Lawrence and Sarah), the “experiment” has blossomed into an annual programme and has improved year on year.
2018 is the ninth year that SHARE has run the Bianca Project and this year we sponsored 8 newly qualified Occupational Therapists and Speech and Language Therapists to spend a four-week period during June and July working at Speranta. We also had an amazing 20 therapy volunteers from previous years who gave up their annual leave and provided valuable support to the new therapists. Three of our Trustees, Lawrence, Samantha and Lindsay took annual leave from their work to act as supervisors together with two new supervisors, Abi and Chloe. 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. As the older children reach 18 or 19 and are no longer in education they are moved to an adult institution and their places are being filled with younger children with more complex SHARE Annual Report 2018 4 disabilities. All of them have been abandoned by their parents because of their disability. While the volunteer 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 they were able to take the children out on visits to the park and even to McDonalds! This year’s volunteers had completed degree courses in Birmingham, Coventry 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 better 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 of the new volunteers paid £500.00 towards their costs. The returning volunteers paid their own fares, and SHARE paid the accommodation both in Sibiu and Dacia and for the polo shirts. The cost to SHARE was £6024.48.
QUOTES from reflections written by this year’s volunteers: “Working with the children in my house has given me more confidence to work more with complex clients in the UK”;
“It was fantastic being able to meet some of the community (in Jacodu) and to be invited into one of their homes”;
“Going back to the Centre as a returner was something very special”;
“My highlight of the trip was taking the children out to the park! This was so magical!”;
“It was lovely seeing the children smile and laugh and for them to come up and grab my hand”;
“It was good to see small improvements that had been made”;
“This is my second year with the Bianca Project and it was just as good as the first although it was a bit colder!”;
“there were lots of challenges whilst working at the centre, but the supervisors were always at hand when we needed their help/to ask questions”;
“Our weekend in Dacia was a real highlight as a bonding experience as well as getting an insight into Romanian culture and life outside of the city”;
“Arriving back at Speranta was the best feeling ever, I felt so overwhelmed to be back its actually really hard to describe the feeling”;
“The Bianca Project is so valuable for the children it supports, and I would love to be involved again in the future”. #
2 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. SHARE Annual Report 2018 5 The German 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 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 who support this project 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. SHARE is supporting work with the children of Dacia. In Dacia the German based 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 2018 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 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. SH
3 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 into the countryside outside the town of Medias. Ron and Jo Jowett from the UK started the work. They live some of the week 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.
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. 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. 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 aim 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. This year they have been extending the garden to include poly tunnels. SHARE donated £1000 to Love Light Romania in 2018 and this money went towards buying clothes and school bags and equipment for the children in the village so that they could start school.
The Trustees of Share are grateful for the support of our donors without which Share would not exist and for the amazing enthusiasm of the volunteers who make such a difference each year.