School Aid Romania Feb 2015

25 February 2015

20150207 085046Our pupils have just returned from Romania after an excellent week of visiting orphanages, hospitals, school and villages. Each day opened with a small group reflection after breakfast which set the scene for the day and reflected on what we had experienced the previous day.

On Sunday we headed into Sacele to the Old People's Home.  We bought aid in the form of toiletries for each of the 150 residents in the home. Our pupils sang and danced with old people bringing laughter and joy into the home.   After the partying we then gave each of the residents their personal gift, and visited those residents in their bedroom, who were too ill to join us in the day room.  In the afternoon pupils were given the task of buying aid for the different orphanages we were visiting that afternoon. We then split into two groups, one heading to Budhila orphanage and then on to visit a good friend Danni.  Danni we first met many years ago in Timis.  He moved from there into the Casa Maria home and then to Patrick.  Once he reached adult age he moved to Casa Irlanda, his home for life.  During Christmas in Irlanda, Danni went home to stay with his family. After Christmas he couldn't settle back into Irlanda and moved back home to live with his family.  Although conditions are extremely harsh and his health is poor, Danni is extremely happy.  Our pupils were shocked and in reflections tonight mentioned this 'shocked at conditions Danni lives in' as well as mentioning 'how happy he is to be with family, regardless of conditions'. Our other group went to Casa Maria were they had a fabulous visit and spent time with the children. Face painting was a big hit with both the children and our students. Some of the pupils felt emotional because of the reaction the young children in Casa Maria had to them. 

Day Two saw us split into two groups one to the Special School and one to the Down's Centre. In the Special School Gabby the principal welcomed us into their school and thanked us for visiting them.  We split into smaller groups and went into the different classrooms.  At first the pupils were apprehensive but it didn't take long for the pupils to become fully involved with the children and the sound of music and laughter soon filled the hallways.  The other group travelled to the Down's Centre and were overwhelmed with how the children interacted with them. Balloon modelling was a great hit with the youngsters along with dancing and singing. In the afternoon we headed into Casa Patrick and Casa Irlanda to see our very good friends.  Pupils enjoyed a very good visit and were blown away by how much the children thought of us visiting them and about how much time they had spent preparing for us. The pupils enjoyed seeing how excited Bebe was when he received a framed photograph of himself which had been taken last year. They also loved the enthusiasm shown by Iulienne when he was trying and succeeding to communicate with us. It amazed our pupils at how the young people give so freely of their love.

Day three saw us travel to Bradet School which currently has about 85 students with severe to moderate learning difficulties.  The classrooms were small with about maybe 4-6 students in the downstairs rooms and about 10 students in some other classes where learning difficulties were more moderate.  One teacher was allocated to each class with no other help available.  Some teachers had a very difficult job having to protect themselves and others from aggressive students.  Conditions within the school are primitive compared to the facilities that our pupils would normally find themselves in.  The majority of the students in the school are also in the care of the state and after their day in school is finished they go up the lane to the orphanage.  The orphanage is divided into two very similar buildings one for the boys and one for the girls.  We took a tour of the girl's orphanage and upon entering the orphanage you are struck by the bareness of the room, the lack of furniture.  We met with the psychiatric professor who works with the children after school.  Some of us got in to see the workshop which trains and encourages the children to work with wood.  For the orphanage, we purchased a lathe to be used in the workshop and now we need to purchase a few planes that can be used with it.  It was good to see new activities being introduced for the children.  The professor then took us into an assembly hall type room and spoke to us about the behaviours displayed by some of the children.  There was a prime example of the behaviour of one of the children, when they wouldn't separate themselves from Hannah.  All she wanted to do was stroke Hannah's hair and did so for about 30mins until we were getting ready to leave.  Our thanks to Hannah for her understanding of the child.  In the afternoon it was back on the bus to head towards Timis.  We had phoned yesterday to ask about what we could bring to help them. We had asked them to prioritise their needs - what was most important.  Their answer, although upon reflection was not very surprising. Their most important priority was that we must be at Timis at 1.30pm, no earlier and no later.  Somehow, we feel the stage is being set.....as we drove down the hill from Timis there was a feeling of desolation, disgust and anger. How can people in this time and this place be treated as they are? The aroma of bleach met us as we entered the building but as we moved up the stairs the bleach was being overtaken by the smell of urine. Pupils were stunned and shocked at the conditions they found the young people in. As they tried to move further into the corridors, they were stopped at every turn, what even greater horrors hid behind the locked doors?  Our pupils are left with many questions unanswered. Many tears were shed at the plight of the young people they had left behind.  Our pupils reflected on hope at morning assembly that morning, where is the hope for the people in Timis? Where is the beacon of sunshine which should be in every young life? Their hearts were very heavy that night - how do we move forward?  What can we do to help? Where do you go from here?  A very poignant thought from one of our young people shared that evening was, "All it takes for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing".

Dacia was our first visit for Day four. This is a primary school in the middle of a very poor village.  Some of the children who attend the school also live in the village orphanage. As we arrived at the school the kids were ready and waiting for us to give us a concert.  They sang for us and then we returned the favour with a few songs of our own.  This soon led to dancing and the ice was well and truly broken. Our pupils spent the morning with the pupils playing and having fun.  We had bags of food for the families in the village already made up, together with small individual gifts bags containing some sweets, pens and pencils for each of the pupils.  We finished our visit to Dacia by distributing the aid around and giving each of the children their little gift.  It was hard for some of our pupils to say goodbye to the new friends they had made, more especially if they were heading over to the orphanage and not to home to the love of a Mum and Dad.  We then drove to the girl's orphanage in Rupea.  Here the girls were very pleased to see us together with all the nail polish, make-up and hair accessories.

Day five took us on a journey to Comana.  This is a village about a 90 minute drive from the centre of Brasov.  Here we first went into the school, to visit the different classrooms and pupils.  We brought aid in the form of school supplies as schools here have very basic resources.  Regardless of the lack of resources, the quality of work the pupils were doing was very high. Our pupils reflected "that when they were playing with the children, there was no language barrier". The atmosphere around the school was very positive.  Staff could see new developments about the school, with a new football pitch in the school grounds, together with a very small stand for spectators.  After lunch on the bus we then moved into the village.  Here we first delivered the food parcels to the families.  Our pupils were amazed at how thankful the families were for the food we had brought them.  It was then back to the van in order to distribute further aid that had been packed by the pupils on Sunday evening.  The pupils, who packed the aid, then distributed that same aid to that particular family.  One of our pupils spoke later about how "it had been just packing for families on Sunday night, but meeting the actual family had made it a lot more personal".  Once all the aid was delivered our pupils walked into the different houses visiting the families.  They couldn't believe the conditions that some of the children lived in, yet they were, on the whole, very happy. In one of the houses a young lady had a baby girl about 6 weeks old.  She had run out of milk for the baby and was down to her last nappy.  Some money was handed over to help her, and she wept uncontrollably with gratitude for what small amount of money she had been given.  It was so good to see how positively our help had been received.  On our way home the girls stopped in at the maternity hospital to deliver some much needed clothes for the abandoned babies ward.  Here we initially saw five babies that are still in the premature ward and then we moved into the main ward for the abandoned babies.  Again there were five in total, a set of twins, one boy, one girl, together with another two girls and a boy.  Our pupils enjoyed cuddling time with the babies but found it hard to cope with what the future might hold for these children, especially after everything they had seen that week.  During evening reflection that night, the pupils then had to decide on what to spend the rest of their fundraising on.  It was difficult for pupils to decide who/where should get what money, always trying for the greater good. 

Day six was a day of lasts.  Firstly it was our last assembly which was on Appreciation, which was after our last breakfast in the dining room.  Then it was our last run down the hill on the big green bus.  Our morning was spent in the Special School and in the Down's Centre.  Both visits were very good and pupils enjoyed their time spent in both places.  It was good for all of our students to be able to see the difference that SAR money has made over the years.  Pupils also liked being able to see the children from Casa Patrick at the Special school.  We then moved onto to McDonald's for our last lunch; however, this lunch was different.  The pupils had paid for a bus to bring 12 of the residents of Timis out to join us for lunch.  When they arrived you could see the delight on their faces.  These 12 have been the lucky ones, the ones that were allowed to join us.  One of the biggest disappointments for our pupils was when the Romanians got up and walked out of McDonald's clearly disgusted that we had brought the Timis children into a public place.  One of the carers said to one of our pupils, that this was the best day in the year for them, and that they had a part in it.  Our pupils were surprised at how naturally the 12 from Timis fitted in with our pupils and all the other customers in McDonald's.  The children from Timis were very caring towards each other as they shared their meals. This created a lot of anger within our young pupils as they could see them being treated in a whole different way than they normally are in their day to day living.  Anger turned to tears at the thought of them heading back to Timis to have no rights, no ear, and no quality of living, in fact, to be dehumanised.  This was a very difficult last for us, saying goodbye to our friends from Timis for the last time, as they boarded the bus.  After lunch it was off to Mina 1 Mia village to visit the school.  This was the pupils' last visit of the trip.  The children waited anxiously for us and were delighted when we turned up.  Singing, dancing and balloon modelling were all part of the agenda which turned it into a fun visit for everyone.  Whilst the pupils were in the school, some of the staff headed up towards the adult psychiatric hospital.  A new director is in place here and we had been warned that we may not get in.  This indeed was initially the case; however, we happened to be there during visiting hours, so we asked if we would be able to visit a couple of the ladies.  Again we were turned down as we were not family but persistence prevailed and we asked would we not be able to visit a friend.  Eventually, after being able to name Tania and Paraschiva we got into the complex.  Instead of being able to visit in their rooms we were taken to the nurses’ office and had to carry our visit out there. We were just so thankful to be able to see them that we were happy seeing them anywhere.  Their form was good and they looked well.  Conditions were still very grim within the hospital but we did notice that the main corridors had been freshly painted with bright colours. This had made a small difference to the hospital and small steps can lead to great leaps. 

Our thought for the day from reflection group 2....

 The lottery of birth, the way we are moulded,
A present that God has wrapped and folded.
The dark recesses of the mind to unlock
From the western world to the eastern bloc.
When the iron curtain fell, it fell harder on some,
But something great here, has surely begun.
And those whose hands were once bound by a tether,
See that great things come from a series of small things together.
But on the coldest of days and the darkest of nights,
The good man stays silent and reality bites.
But those responsible for the oppression,
Try to justify their acts in a vacant recession.
When the line has been drawn, and the worst has been cast,
Through the hunger and thirst, the pain and the fast.
The present now will later be past.
But look beyond the snow, the frost and the ice,
And someday we will live as one in paradise. 

Deep thoughts...

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Cookstown High School,  Coolnafranky Demesne, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, BT80 8PQ  
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