The situation in Romania is reported as being “quite worry-ing” over the past few weeks with the country’s new daily Covid cases breaking record after record. Romania has announced a state of alert and the Government is very concerned about the healthcare capacity. Of the 1250 intensive care beds available there are fewer than 300 beds left for patients requiring this level of care.
Just like the UK the country is divided into three levels of alert—red, yellow and green with different restrictions in each of the zones. Sibiu is currently in the red zone . However, on 9th November a more generalised lockdown began with schools closing and a national curfew imposed from 11pm to 5am.
Robert from Love Light Romania reported this week that the virus has reached the village where Jim’s House is situated, and one of the carers for Bianca, Ionut and Alex has been in isolation. As a result he has had to move in to look after the three of them.
An Update on Jim’s House
It has been over a year since our three young adults, Bianca, Ionut and Alex moved into Jim’s House. We have regular updates from their legal guardian, Robert, who helps to run Love Light Romania our partner charity in this project. The three have formed a very strong bond and consider Jim’s House to be their forever home.
A recent WhatsApp message from Robert reported that one of the carers has Covid and is therefore in isolation. All the carers who work in Jim’s House have had to self isolate so Robert has moved into the house to look after the three of them. He told us that they all work together in the house, doing the sweeping, mopping, cleaning windows, hanging clothes up to dry, taking the bin bags out etc. He says they all get on well together, laughing and joking, and apart from cooking he has not really had to do anything.
“To me” he says “this project has been such a huge success. They are acting like a real family.”
Each year the Share volunteers raise money to take out to Romania to buy much appreciated toys and clothes for the children and young adults. This year has been different. We were all devastated we could not get out due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic also meant that the usual fundraising activities could not go ahead. However, we knew we still wanted to support the charity and provide some vital donations. So, we set about thinking of some fundraising ideas. We all agreed we wanted it to be challenging and to really push us. The majority of the group had never climbed Snowdon so we all agreed that it would be a great challenge for us.
To make it even harder we decided to do it at sunset meaning we would be descending in the dark! We hired a guide to make sure we didn’t get lost ,and began spreading the word to raise money. We quickly reached our initial target and slowly moved the target up and up.
On the day we met our guide at the base of Snowdon to begin our ascent. It is fair to say that it was tough with the added challenge of extreme winds! With team work, determination and lots of snacks we did it, we were all so proud! It took us a total of 7 hours and we raised £2000. We are so thankful to everyone who donated.
This money will go towards the care of the young adults at Jim’s House.
The climbing volunteers were Chloe Sharp and her friend Rachel, Josephine Pettigrew, Lindsay Small (Trustee), Abi Brazier (Trustee), Nicky Gilbert and Emma Horner
Ten Years of Hope
Speranta means hope in the Romanian language and it is the name of the Centre for children with multiple and complex needs in Sibiu where we have sent volunteers each summer since 2010.
Over those 10 years we have supported 123 newly qualified Occupational Therapists and Speech and Language Therapists to work as volunteers in the Bianca Project. There have been 48 volunteer therapists returning each year. Some of them now act as Supervisors and provide support and guidance to the new volunteers. Six of them have be-come Trustees of Share.
Chloe Williams (far right) was one of the first volunteers back in 2010. She says “I had just finished University, full of inspirations about how I was going to change the world (high hopes I know). The opportunity to go and help children in Romania was one I definitely did not want to miss. This was Share’s first trip so it was a bit of unknown territory. I remember talking with the two other girls that were with me, about all the things we were going to do, the Romanian songs we were going to learn to sing to the children, the occupational therapy treatment that we could input. Then we arrived. Things were harder than we expected, the environment, the opinions that were held by the public and even the carers, about people with disabilities. My high expectations changed and I spent the best of 2 months trying to get the children to just play and giving them some love and fun. It was so difficult coming home and knowing that things may have just gone back to normal for the children, my heart ached wanting to be back with them. The experience changed who I was as a person and this has gone with me through all of my career. The project has moved on so much since that first trip that I went on, the impact that all the volunteers have had on the children, carers and the place as a whole has been so wonderful to hear about. Achievements have been made that I would have never thought possible on that first trip and I know that with the ongoing support of the volunteers there are certainly even better things to come”
Samantha McNeilly describes her first day at the centre back in 2012. “I was 20 and had not yet found my confidence. As I stepped into the first house in the compound, I was met by 8 boys; most of them wheel-chair users with multiple sensory impairments. I will always remember the moment one boy held me by the wrist and stared me in the eyes with the biggest grin imaginable. At that moment I did not realise what the project would mean to me, or to the children who benefit from it”.
Since 2012 Samantha has returned each summer to work with the children. She has been a supervisor (support) for the new volunteers and has become a Trustee. She de-scribes a typical day at the Centre: “The day begins with a volunteer team meeting, deciding which of the children we will work with today and what our aims are. We then spend the day working with the children, building relationships with the carers and ensuring each child’s day is filled with laughter and smiles.”
Lindsay Small writes: I have been involved with SHARE since 2013, aged 20 and very naïve to the world. I was shy and lacked confidence in every aspect. The Bianca Project, not only helped my confidence personally, but also professionally as an occupational therapist. I had no idea that this would be the basis for mycareer. I left a piece of my heart in Sibiu in 2013, and each time I go back I leave more and more there. Having been to Romania for our project 9 times, I can truly say that this life changing experience, achieves more and more each year. Even though we have not been able to visit in 2020, it does not mean that whilst we have been in the UK we have not planned for the future and completed fundraising both for the Bianca Project and Jim’s House.
The Bianca Project achieves more and more each year, and our biggest achievements happened in 2019. With the continuity of regular supervisors and returning volunteers building a rapport with the Director and the staff at the Centre we have built the trust to be able to take some of the children out to experience different environments. We have taken children to the Salt Lakes, to swimming pools, out to restaurants and to the local park. Whilst this does not sound like a great achievement in the UK, this was for many of the children the first time beyond the gates of the centre. There is nothing like the smile of a child after trying his or her first mouthful of an ice cream!
Lindsay also talks about hope for the future ….
We hope that Jim’s House will continue for many more years, for this to be a home for life for the three young people that it supports. It will take lots of fundraising efforts which we regularly discuss as trustees. We want the three young people to be able to access the community more and more, and we would like the support workers that Share funds to be able to work with the young people to access public transport as independently as possible. We would also like – when the pandemic allows, for the volunteers to be able to take them away for a few nights to give them more opportunities. Love Light Romania have another project in Jacodu working with a Roma Gypsy Community, and this would be a fantastic opportunity for our three young people to experience, as they have polytunnels so can engage in lots of gardening activities, and opportunities to meet new people.
We have hope for the future to be so bright for both the children in Speranta and the young adults in Jim’s House. We have hope for the future that we can help educate the children’s carers further on their individual health conditions and the resulting physical and emotional needs and how to support the children with these. We have so much hope that we can continue to fundraise for these projects to make them have the out-comes the children and young people fully deserve.
Dacia is a small village about sixty miles from Sibiu. SHARE became involved with a project there about 15 years ago because it became a Cross of Nails Centre linked to Coventry Cathedral. Copii Europei is a charity run by Frank Roth from Dresden. SHARE has supported the charity by donating money towards meals for the children who attend an education programme in the village. We have regular updates from Frank and in the most recent he explained that the school is closed for a few weeks as Romania has gone into anoth-er lockdown. Many of the children in towns and cities have access to online classes but in Dacia there is not even Wi-Fi so the teacher, Maria has been working with the children one to one. The charity also made the decision to provide the children’s families with food to replace the meals that the project usually provides each day. Frank reports that everyone is very happy with this solution of the problem.
We have taken our volunteers to Dacia over the last 10 years as it is useful for them to experience the life of ordinary Romanian people who live in these small isolated villages. They bear little resemblance to the towns and cities. They do not have access to mains sewerage or mains water. The villagers have a very different lifestyle.