Here we are representing a glimpse of the Friends of Romanian Children’s association houses.
Friends of Romanian Children was founded by Mary Gibson, a mother and grandmother
herself, who was so disturbed by the images that came out of Romanian orphanages after the 1989 revolution that she flew there to help, initially raising funds and sending out workers, eventually setting up the Friends of Romanian Children project to give these children love and a family life.
Experiential Learning Forum re-Edu Project involves volunteers from all over the world in intercultural interactions and creative activities with the purpose of improving the community and bringing self awareness to both children and adults.
We asked the children about their life, future plans and beautiful memories. Watch their answers from the video below and embrace the happiness and the warmth that they send to everyone around.
The Project debuted with the first Activity (Volunteering Team One) on the 4th of July 2020. 13 people – four locals from Harja and Poiana, with Ali, Dan and Diana from the organisation and Alexandra from Poiana Sarata, four youth from around Romania Gabriela and Roxana from Suceava, Ciprian from Craiova and Eryani from Bucharest, five youth from abroad Iliana from Germany, Ilyas from Latvia (Moroccan national), Vijay from Hungary (Indian national), Muhammad and Aqeel from Hungary (Pakisatan nationals).
Ecology Activities in Harja and Poiana Sarata
It appears that these days all we hear about is the tragic impact our actions are having on the planet. With hundreds of people suffering from hunger, millions of tons of waste getting into our oceans, hundreds of animal’s species entering into endangered category, it’s time for us to ponder and wake up before it gets too late. However, not everything is horrendous, there are still many organisations and individual people who are burning their midnight oil to keep the Mother Earth clean and sustainable. “Friends of Romanian Children” is one of those organisations. FoRC aims to transform Harja from a village to a trash-free touristic spot.
We usually observe that our rural areas, especially picnic spots, rivers, natural beauties which were made for us, are full of trash, garbage. The main reason behind this is the fact that we do not consider it our own property. We need to protect it because only “The Earth is what we all have in common.” —Wendell Berry. In order to put this awareness message into practice, Experimental Learning Forum gathers volunteers from all around the globe to start awareness and cleaning sessions, in which we gather around dozens of bags with trash from the village of Harja and Poiana Sarata, from the river bank and places where people usually do barbecue or spend time.
FoRC mainly focuses on arranging projects that aim to give social awareness about the adverse effects of pollution on the rural areas and the nature around it. It is the second week of the Experiential Learning Forum project, and the whole context that we created is all about learning by experience.
What we did?
Fifteen volunteers from different countries spent a total of 200 hours during 4 days, cleaning the area that was full of old clothes, bottles, pieces of plastic, bags, glasses and various objects that do not belong to nature.
What we became aware of?
ELF project helped our volunteers to become aware of undiscussed effects of the pollution on people’s and animal’s life and then chain reactions of those sufferings. Our volunteers are now fully aware of the fragility of our environment and importance of its protection.
What we propose?
Our team proposed to have at least one day per month for cleaning the village and also, after spotting the hot places for trash, we informed the municipal government to carry the garbage on a daily basis. Apart from that, our team posted the social awareness posters on the commonly visited places of village and talked to locals about the importance of keeping tha area clean.
What is the conclusion?
The conclusion is that every person should take care of the environment. Before doing anything which is harsh for the environment, just think of the consequences that other people and nature has to suffer because of that. Our volunteers answered some questions about this topic and shared some personal insights.
The ”Raibais kaķis” association, in cooperation with organizations from Italy (Mine Vaganti NGO), Bulgaria (Social HUB Association) and Romania (Friends of Romanian Children) starts the implementation of the project “EntrepRURAL socialy”. EntrepRURAL socialy is a strategic partnership project for the exchange of good practice. The project is financially supported by the ERASMUS+ Youth in Action program.
”EntrepRURAL socialy” is a Strategic Partnership in the youth field aimed at promoting the role of Social Entrepreneurship (SE), in combination with Non Formal Education (NFE) and practical learning, as a tool for enhancing social inclusion and employability of disadvantaged sectors of the youth population from rural area.
Social entrepreneurship is becoming more popular, as it is the best approach to develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues. The project is focused on exchanging good practices between the countries involved in the project by promoting social entrepreneurship of young people in rural areas. The partnership is expecting three mobilities in Bulgaria, Latvia and Italy for youth (18-25 years old) who want to learn and focus on entrepreneurship and develop their business idea. Each mobility has a specific theme: the first one is personal growth (who I am as an entrepreneur), the send one is storytelling and how to use it in order to promote one’s social entrepreneurship and the third one is digital opportunities (how to use digital tools in social entrepreneurship). For each mobility and topic, a handbook will be created.
The first activity planned within the project is an international meeting of partners from 11 to 12 July in Latvia, within which the further course of the project will be planned. The first youth mobility of the project is planned in Bulgaria in November this year.
The project “EntrepRURAL socially” was funded with the support of the European Commission “Erasmus +: Youth in Action”, which is administered in Latvia by the Agency for International Youth Programs. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Schools closed in Romania on 11 March and will not re-open until September. So now the children continue do their lessons online. This has posed a few difficulties as they have only a small number of laptops and tablets and all of them need to work on them at the same time. Thankfully, two people have generously donated funds to buy two more, so that has made life a little easier.
Betty has taken on someone to help teach the younger ones as they are all at different stages and it is too much for the carers to take on. They have much to do already with cleaning, washing and cooking. Instead of working their usual 8-hour shifts two carers stay for two weeks at a time, to minimise to-ing and fro-ing beyond the houses. They have all been tested for the virus and are fine.
The little ones are finding it hard to do so much online learning – hardly surprising! Betty felt Stefan was getting quite miserable, so she bought him some new Lego and he was thrilled. “How did you know that is exactly what I wanted to make me happy?” he asked her. He and Gabi built this pagoda of 1500 pieces in two days.
The older ones will still be taking their exams, and they are working hard. Sometimes the school makes them do tests at 8 in the morning – not easy, especially for teenagers!
The girls are brilliant cooks!
The children miss their school friends and sometimes get bored but as Lala said:
“I like that we get to know each other better!”
If you would like to support the charity and help us meet the unexpected costs of lockdown learning you can make a donation here.
Under lockdown most of us are restricted to socialising with just a handful of household members, or perhaps no one at all, but while our children in Hârja are not able to mix with their friends, they are enjoying the benefits of living in a big family. This means that they can still celebrate occasions, such as the start of the Easter holidays, together with their carers without gathering around a screen and connecting on Zoom!
And some of them are spending time cooking and helping out in the kitchen.
Everyone in Hârja is looking forward to Easter, which in Romania will be celebrated on Sunday 19th April, in accordance with the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Thank you for your continued support. If you would like to make a donation to the charity you can do so safely here.
Schools in Romania closed two weeks ago to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading. The children are continuing to do school work at home and they have also been helping with tasks at home.
Their houses are heated by wood-burning stoves and so a lot of fuel is needed. Supplies for next winter have already arrived and the children worked hard to stack it in the shelter. It took them a week! ‘We were very proud of them for doing such a good job,’ says Betty Grigoras, Project Manager.
We are happily sharing that Friends of Children in Romania hosted 31 youth workers, from 9 #EU countries in the “Training 4 Trainers” training course financed by #erasmus#erasmusplus from 20-30 October, in #Comanesti.
The #youthworkers developed abilities in working with youngster from disadvantaged areas through the following:
1. Practising training and presentation competencies for facilitating transfer of EU common values
2. Developing public speaking skills for presenting to groups and audiences
3. Engaging and managing group dynamics Gaining better rapport with the target groups
4 Improving personal professional and organisational development through self assessment and creating action plans
During the “T4T” Training Course group, joined another activity, a youth exchange group who attended the project “Be On Your Way 2” hosted by Asociatia Generatia Schimbarii and went for a “Ted Talk” event in #Comanesti at Colegiul Tehnic “Dimitrie Ghika”. ✊
👉 The participants in the T4T delivered speeches about “Success in Life” in front of the audience of 100+ guests.
👉 We went on further to visit the organisation AGES and run workshops with the youngsters participating in the Youth Exchange (56 people) on tools for their careers 👉 As an ending some of the participants offered to be “Living Books” in the Living Library organised by AGES NGO 🥳 The day ended with Romanian Traditions – Bear Dance & Romanian Wedding
Throughout the 9 days of activities the group explored through NFE methods a variety of tools, as mentioned above and had the chance to work a lot on managing states
and speech in front of a group, as well as giving feedback to each other.It has been challenging,getting the group out of the comfort zone. Furthermore, many sessions and individual interventions were recorded as a measure to have a clear track of improvement, and extracting learning points. A highlight was the moment when the group worked on humour and learning how to effectively use the microphone.
Even more, we had activities together with the youth group from the Erasmus+ project that happened in parallel, where our trainers planned specific activities for career guidance/ career development to be in line with their topic. And it was a great success.
As we reached the end of the training activities we managed to structure several follow-up projects in order to get the cooperation with the partner NGOs further. Some ideas are related to the commonly identified needs of the communities represented by the youth workers such as: Emotional Development, Entrepreneurial Skill-sets in Real Life simulations, Team Work Communication or Stress Reduction.
We would like to THANK the involvement of all the youth workers present, the support of our partner organisations, and Stephen Molnar for sharing new tools with a committed group of youth workers.
It has been an accomplishment for all of us, it brought new learnings, it created new collaborations, it managed to bring out follow-up ideas for future projects and made us willing to keep doing what we’re doing.
CONGRATS TO ALL!
Later Edit. (January 2020)
The Dissemination was a success in each of the partner countries, and we would like to share the photos and some of the remarks received from the youth workers.
A link to the T4T handbook with tools & methods for trainers can be downloaded here T4T_HandBook_Erasmus+
“Experiential Learning Forum” Project, funded by the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) it’s been more than the Festival. Above all it has been about promoting volunteering possibilities, mobility of youngsters in EU, solidarity, cohesion and non-formal education.
For this, our volunteers have been involved in plenty of activities. For instance the teams of 40 volunteers went to Bacau, Comanesti, Moinesti, Oituz, Onesti, Targu Ocna, Brasov, Vaslui, Barlad, Neamt to meet groups of youngsters, do non-formal education (NFE) activities with them, share about ESC volunteering, solidarity and cohesion, before the Festival.
After that the volunteering team arriving in August prepared materials for the Festival, designed props, planned the map of the festival, greeted the artists and then went around to high schools. In other words, they tried out NFE tools with pupils, spoke about volunteering, solidarity and how the Festival happened.
Both teams of volunteers were involved in local activities in Harja and Oituz. For example our volunteers taught youngsters English, ran activities with elders where they shared cultural traits of their home countries, helped the locals with gardening and works around the house. The volunteering teams even worked on the digital environments and social media to share photos, articles, edit videos, schedule posts on social media. They sent emails, designed and collected feedback from partners, artists, and youngsters they met. Would you join us?
In conclusion, the ELF project volunteering teams animated the village of Harja for 4 months, revitalising the village life and engaging the locals. We assume that the young volunteers who joined us, left Harja with their lives enriched, with new experiences and a greater understanding of what our mission stands for.
After all, what can be more enriching for young people than having such opportunities to volunteer abroad leave an impact in the local community as well as enriching their lives too….!?
PS: check the Video Summary of the first Experiential Learning Festival.
A summary of the first Experiential Learning Festival in the rural-Romania.
A moment in time of constant growth, of great discoveries, of continuous scientific development, of full attention being given to education in the European society, at global level where more and more attention is needed… and here we are. We became part of contributors to the education, with a big team of volunteers, an open-hearted group of artists and facilitators and an open-minded and helpful local community.
Our ideas have been embraced, and furthermore we felt the achievement of solidarity, cohesion within all the people who were present in Harja. Therefore we heard from the ELF-ers comments saying “we feel like we’re in a big family here” or “everyone I spoke to was so kind” or even “it feels so natural to start talking to people over here”.
Would those remarks come as a result of various workshops that happened and involved people. ELF created the space for them to communicate, and created a safe space all-over the Festival areas? We believe, YES and this is the blend of all the people and elements that we brought together. Was this a different approach to Education, ongoing for 4 days? Where youngsters, adults, locals, volunteers, elders, facilitators, artists, met, discussed, shared ideas outside activities? YES, and it’s been rewarding for all.
We danced, we jammed, we painted, we discovered labyrinth theatre, we played football, we made music, we meditated, we experienced yoga and acrobatics, we participated in contact improvisation, we went treasure hunting, we made new friends.
Will we organise a project like this next year and a festival?
For sure, and we invite you to join us! Follow-us.
It is with great sadness that we tell you that the founder of Friends of Children in Romania has died. Increasingly frail during the past year, Mary had a stroke in March and was taken to hospital in Dorchester. The next day a second stroke followed – a severe one. She was cared for beautifully in hospital and while she struggled to get words out, she always greeted the nurses with a smile. Her body was badly damaged but her spirit as bright as ever.
Mary was a much-loved mother, grandmother and friend and this charity her outstanding achievement.
How did it all start?
After the fall of Ceaucescu, the president of Romania, in 1989, news broke of over-crowded orphanages with children living in appalling conditions. Mary never waited for someone else to sort out the problems she was passionate about and she never saw obstacles. On a cold, January day, at the age of 62, she set out for Bucharest, roping in her son’s ex-girlfriend and a photographer she had met on Salisbury train station.
Romania was in a very different state then to how it is today. Soldiers begged for cigarettes at the airport; there were no streetlights, long queues for bread and little food available – other than jars of pickled cucumbers. She soon learnt to pack her own lightbulbs for hotel rooms.
In Bucharest she sought out the notorious orphanages. Inside, the stench of urine was overpowering. Worse still, they were silent. No laughter – not even the sound of crying.
What to do? An overwhelming task, you might think. So she started with the basics. One of the most urgent requirements, she had seen, was for nappies. Back on a train in England, she asked the man sitting next to her: “I don’t suppose you run a nappy factory, do you?” He didn’t but when she told her tale he offered to help in a different way. He worked for the advertising company Saatchi & Saatchi. Publicity took off and fundraising went with a swing, including a concert at the Albert Hall. She addressed the audience. Next, she contacted Blue Peter, the children’s TV programme watched by half the country’s children. They decided to make her charity the focus of their Christmas appeal.
Her vision, and that adopted by Blue Peter, was to get children out of institutional orphanages and into family-sized houses, with carers taking on a parent-like role.
The appeal was hugely successful, raising more than £6 million. Huge sums of money, though, are not always a blessing. The charity had to appoint a professional, paid director to deal with the scale of the project and almost immediately, her vision started to unravel. At this point, many people might have been defeated. But not Mary. She simply got out of the organisation – and started again with a new charity – this one.
Friends of Children in Romania has given a home to more than thirty children over the years, mostly under the leadership of Betty Grigoras, who became her great friend as well as the best project manager she could have hoped for.
Mary visited Harja regularly, three or four times a year when she was younger, but still twice every year until her final visit last year, when the charity celebrated its 25th anniversary. She always took presents for the children – fun things, such as fancy wigs or hats, jewellery given to her by one of the market stall holders in her local town, posters of fast cars and pop stars – whatever she thought they would like.
She baked with them, joined them for walks in the beautiful fields around Harja and played in the snow along with them during her winter visits.
Throughout, she was always involved in decisions over the welfare of the children, talking to Betty and before her, Penny Munro, several times a week. She also corresponded with funders, produced the newsletter and was constantly on the look-out for new people to support the charity.
Mary will be much missed but the charity will continue.