Richard Edney - General Care Projects in Romania
On the 6th February, I arrived at Bucharesti Airport, România, to begin two months voluntary work in a state orphanage. I was soon greeted by a sea of faces at Arrivals, but quickly managed to pick out the board which read 'Projects Abroad'. After introducing myself to Danielle (my care supervisor), we set off on the long three hour taxi journey to the medieval mountain town of Brasov, in central România.
We arrived at my host family's house at approximately 6pm and I was given a warm welcome. Within two minutes I dicovered that my hosts, Lucia and Aurel, couldn't speak hardly any English, so at first it was hard work making any sort of conversation, but I got by with a few basic Romanian phrases. The following day I was given a tour of the town, showing me where to eat, shop, exchange money, buy souvenirs etc. This included being taken to a traditional Romanian restaurant, where we ate a dish called Sarmale (mincemeat & rice, wrapped in cabbage leaves), served with pickled vegetables!
Within a few days, I was getting to know the town center better, making my own way from A to B. After my medical documents and police checks had been viewed, I was taken to St. Patricks Orphanage, in Harman, just outside Brasov. Soon after meeting some of the staff and children, it really hit home that the next seven weeks were going to be exremely challenging for me. The following week I started work officially, arriving at 8:30am and staying for about five hours. My responsibilities included feeding (breakfast & lunch) and engaging the children in reading, art, crafts, games and even a little bit of dance! The children were aged between 4-11 and suffered from either physical or mental illness, but by no means did this stop them having fun. The kids soon took to me, and I usually found myself giving them piggy-backs within two minutes of walking through the door! They showed so much enthusiasm and thrived with attention, giving me ten times more than I could ever give them.
Alongside working at St. Patricks orphanage, I would visit a privately owned Protect the Children foster home, in Cristian, twice a week. Here the children, aged between 7-15, all attended school, therefore my duties differed slightly. Work would begin at 11:45am by picking up the two youngest children from school. I'd then spend most of the afternoon helping them with homework, playing games in the garden, washing up and guiding the older ones with their English. I usually left Cristian at 6pm, with a 15 minute bus journey back to Brasov. This gave me just enough time to get back for the tasty and certainly nutritious evening meal (usually consisting of noodles for a starter, followed by pork with rice & pickled vegetables in sauce for the main course, and pasta in hot milk for dessert!).
At weekends, I took time to explore the "untamed beauty" of Transylvania, in the heart of the Carpathian Mts. This included visiting the hilltop fortress at Râsnov, retracing the footsteps of Vlad Tepes at Bran Castle, unintentially getting myself locked inside an ancient fortress at Prejmer, climbing a mountain in Poiana Brasov, and wondering around the capital Bucharesti, in the south of România. For the children in Cristian, I organised a countryside walk, an evening meal at an Italian restaurant, a trip to the cinema and a visit to Circus Europa. I also had numerous eventful nights out in Brasov with the other volunteers.
The orphanage work was challenging, both physically and mentally, but all the more rewarding for the challenges faced and overcome. From spending just two months in România, I've gained so much, and become an even more responsible person (or so I've been led to believe!). Leaving Brasov, my new friends and above all the children, was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.