Annual Report 2019

The Bianca Project

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 success
and thanks to some of the volunteers who have continued to be part of it  the “experiment” has
blossomed into an annual programme and has improved year on year. Find out more about the Bianca Project here.

This Spring we invited the Director of Speranta to come to the UK to visit UK hospices and to meet other health professionals. Dana came with her daughter Ariana who translated for her, and she
visited Zoe’s Place in Bedworth, which is a hospice for 0-5 year olds and Rainbows in Loughborough. Both offer respite care for children with life limiting conditions. She was
able to see how the children were cared for and meet some of the hospice staff.

Photo above: Jane and Dana with Jo Sims, Head of Family Support at the Rainbows Hospice

The Bianca Project celebrated its 10th year this summer and did it in style! Five newly
qualified occupational therapists and speech and language therapists joined Sam, Sarah
(Ablett) and Jane at Luton Airport along with two Community Children’s Nurses from Warwickshire to set off to Sibiu for the summer at Speranta.

Over the summer we had 20 volunteers altogether including the returning volunteers. Three of
our Trustees, Lindsay, Sam and Abi along with two other supervisors, Sarah A and Chloe gave up their annual leave to give valuable support to all the volunteers. We had learnt from the early days of this project that supervision for the volunteers is key.

Photo above: This years new volunteers.

For the volunteers to be able to reflect at the end of each day and learn from each other is important and is often mentioned by the volunteers in their written reflections each year.
It was especially helpful having Alison and Liz with the group for a week this year. As experienced Community Children’s Nurses they were able to offer advice and support to the nurses caring for the very young and disabled children that now end up in Speranta – babies requiring very specific care, for example, around feeding. They were able to give the psychologist and Director at Speranta advice about transition to help the children when they move on to the Adult Centres when they reach adulthood.

This year more than any other year the volunteers were able to take the children outside the Centre. They went swimming, watched a carnival parade, played in the park and had meals out. Sibiu is a vibrant city and was the City of Culture in 2007. Since then the city centre has events all summer long such as drama, jazz and film festivals. The main street is full of tourists and the local families all enjoying the spectacular events. There are lots of restaurants in the city centre. It has changed a great deal in recent years. The volunteers also take the children from the Centre up to Little John’s House in Cisnadiora where they can enjoy the Summer Camps that take place there.

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 £3,389.17.

Quotes from reflections written by this year's volunteers


“Speranta” translates to hope and it’s amazing just how apt that is. I have been amazed by how much hope I have seen whilst returning to Speranta for a second year”

“I had a banger of a summer with the children experiencing so much and gaining very many skills. A month was a good time to see the progress being made”.

“This was the most amazing experience I have had to date. I have always wanted to do  volunteering work abroad and this completely exceeded my expectations”.

“Working in Speranta brought about so much happiness, joy and contentment; in fact I’d go as far as calling it therapeutic because seeing the children almost every day, building bonds with them,
getting to know their lovely personalities, watching them develop daily and giving and receiving love was so rewarding”.

“It was great to see how much trust the carers had in us to take the children out. It was brilliant
to see how much the children enjoyed spending time with us, whether it was simply giving them
1:1 time and attention, taking them on trips or giving them small presents and treats”.

“This year (her fourth year) in Sibiu was a very special one – to see the progress made so far has been amazing and I feel very lucky to be part of a special project”.

“During these weeks we had another once in a lifetime opportunity to go to a village in Romania (Dacia). This village is so similar to the other villages in Romania yet so different to our way of life in the UK. The village has minimal running water, one shop and lots of cattle! My favourite part of the visit was looking up at a clear night sky to see all the stars, waking up to the birds singing and of course playing UNO with the minibus driver!”

NB. 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.

Jims House

The Rev Jim Tysoe was a probation officer and then a priest, who for a time worked at Coventry Cathedral and supported the community. He took an interest in the work of Share from the early days and gave regular donations for many years. He often helped us out when the coffees were
running low. Jim sadly passed away in 2017 and he had made provision in his will for Share. With this legacy we were able to think a little ‘out of the box’ as to how we could best use this amount of money wisely.

Romania is one of the poorest countries per capita in Europe. After the revolution the numbers of abandoned children remained about the same until after the financial crash in 2008 not long after Romania entered the EU. In 2011 the number of abandoned babies increased again largely, it would appear, for the same reasons as in previous decades – poverty. It is impossible for Roma families to take care of such children, for in Romania there is little or no support, particularly for children with complex needs. Many of these children live in state-ran centres, such as where the Bianca Project takes place.

Some of us visited Sibiu in October 2018 and while we were there, we visited Talmaciu, one of three adult centres near Sibiu. Here there are approximately 138 people between the ages of 18 to 69. The vast majority of them would have lived in institutions most of their lives. They all have learning disabilities and some have both physical and learning disabilities. While there we met some past residents of Speranta. We were taken to see the workshop areas where several residents were engaged in basic activities, one knitting, another doing a jigsaw. It was hard to see how any of these residents would be able to have future employment. The Director of the Centre told us that there are plans in place to reduce the numbers in this institution, but it is difficult to see how that will be possible. In the meantime, the thought of some of the current young people from Speranta whom we have grown to love over the years, moving to such a place seemed unthinkable.

So, when discussing this with Jo Jowett from the charity Love Light Romania we came
up with a plan!

A NOTE about Love Light Romania
Love Light Romania has been established in Transylvania since 2000. Initially working with and supporting abandoned children infected with HIV. The children lived in a unit at the hospital in Medias (known to SHARE as the Emma House). The charity also provided community services for all those infected with and affected by the virus in the locality, including towns like Medias, Targu Mures and Sighisoara. In 2003 the Sanctuary was established as a placement centre providing a home for the existing abandoned children from the hospital, because the Emma House was closing. In 2005 a large extension was built at the Sanctuary in Igishi Nou and this allowed an increase in the number of residents, providing respite, end of life care and day care. The Sanctuary has now become a residential home for adults living with HIV and special needs. Love Light Romania also runs a community project in a small Roma Village called Jacodu.

The plan we came up with was to provide accommodation for 3 or 4 institutionalized young people from Speranta rather than them having to go into an institution. Their new home (Jim’s House) would offer them an independent lifestyle in sheltered accommodation, with care staff, in the village of Igishi Nou where the Sanctuary would be nearby. The village is about 3 miles from Medias. The residents will be helped with skills to take care of themselves and their home, which includes a garden area and chickens. They will help with shopping, cleaning and the daily care of the house. Jim’s House will be managed by Robert Rowe who is Jo’s son. It will be part of the Sanctuary programme and the young people will be able to join that community for meals and for
social activities.

During summer 2019 we were able to take the young people over to see the house, they were able to meet some of the residents of the Sanctuary and get to know Robert. At that time there was still lots of work to do and it was hard to imagine it being finished in time. It is a lovely little house and we knew it would be just perfect. Igishi Nou is a big village and because it is nearer to the town of Medias it has better amenities. Jo and Ron lived in this house when they first set up the
Sanctuary. They are thrilled that it is being used again.

In October 2019 three young people (Onu, Alex and Bianca) were safely transferred into the care of Love Light Romania. Paperwork has been completed and just the legal guardianship needs to be sorted. They have already been on a bus to Medias, baked a cake and made sandwiches! The latest news is that Onu and Alex started school in Medias and all is going well. It will cost about £2500 a month to care for these young people and Share will have to find ways to fund this outlay. It is worth every penny we have spent already and every penny we will have to raise in the future.
To see these young people start to live a normal life for the first time in their lives is just the best!

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.