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Making a difference in Romania

Valerie Farnworth, Tracy Webb and Mark Wylie with some of the residents of Casa Sf. Patrick and Casa Irlanda - Photo: Shetland to Romania Orphanage Project 2011

EIGHT volunteers from the Shetland to Romania Orphanage Project 2011 have just returned home following what was described as a “very successful few weeks, touching the lives of many orphans living in Romania”.

The group, consisting of Amy Gair, Christine Jamieson, Sandra Strachan, Barry Derbyshire, Valerie Farnworth, Tracy Webb and project co-ordinators Mark and Jenny Wylie took almost £5,000 with them, which was all raised locally in Shetland.

The funds were divided between five orphanages in and around Brasov in the Transylvanian region of Romania where the volunteers were working.

The group spent the money on a range of items, including daily purchases of fresh fruit and water for the children – a luxury that they simply cannot afford – as well as resources for each orphanage.

They also purchased a TV, Wii games console and board games for the Foundation Dumbrava Minunata, a community centre for children that are currently living in foster care, but once were living in the large, institution-style orphanages of the past.

The other four orphanages, which are run by the Sunshine Foundation, were given gifts of a computer and printer, sports equipment, board games, arts and crafts equipment, CD players, giant beanbags and tables and benches for both indoors and outdoors.

Four of the volunteers spent an afternoon decorating the outside space of the Peter Pan Orphanage, with volunteers Amy Gair and Christine Jamieson recreating Disney characters in the playground, whilst Tracy Webb and Jenny Wylie, who are more artistically challenged, just about managed to paint a caterpillar and a large sun! This was achieved whilst the children were taken to a local play park by Mark Wylie and Valerie Farnworth, something they had never done before!

Volunteers, Valerie Farnworth, Christine Jamieson and Sandra Strachan painting t-shirts with children at the Peter Pan orphanage - Photo: Shetland to Romania Orphanage Project 2011

As well as this, volunteers also did a wide range of activities with the children in their respective orphanages. These ranged from Mark and Sandra helping youngsters with their trampolining and gymnastic skills, with Sandra impressing everyone with her somersaults; T-shirt painting, dancing, face-painting (although one member of staff got a fright when she thought that Tracy’s face had been painted using permanent marker pens), drawing, playing catchy games like Duck Duck Goose, as well as different sports such as basketball, table tennis and tennis, accumulating in a sports day competition.

The group arranged a variety of day trips for the children. All of the children were given the opportunity to go swimming at the Paradisul Aqvatic complex and for many of them, this was the first time they had ever been swimming, and the volunteers took great pleasure in seeing them going into the pool for the first time, all kitted out in new rubber rings, new swim shorts and with beaming smiles!

Day trips were also organised for Brasov Castle, Mount Tampa (via cable car) and Adventureland, a tree-top adventure where the kids (and volunteers) had to make their way through a forest using only tree-top high wires, tricky crossings using ladders, walkways, bridges and tunnels made of wood, rope and wire, and zip lines. This was enjoyed by everyone who went, but particularly those who witnessed volunteer Barry Derbyshire demonstrating his inner Tarzan!

Towards the end of the two weeks, the director of the Sunshine Foundation approached us explaining that one of the boys had been given the opportunity to be fitted with a prosthetic arm and leg after he lost his when he was severely burned as a baby. The foundation had managed to secure funding for most of the expenses, however they asked us whether we would be willing to contribute towards the fuel costs of the four hour trip. The Shetland volunteers unanimously decided to donate the full cost of his travel expenses and they hope to be kept updated on his progress.

As well as buying a variety of resources for the orphanages, the volunteers were able to take out many items of make-up, clothing and toys donated by the Shetland public, art and craft materials donated by local artist Anne Barron, knitted blankets made by the residents of Taing House, handmade quilts donated by local business, Nimble Fingers, items from Relax Kids in Oxford as well as T-shirts, leotards, medals and wristbands donated by Scottish Gymnastics.

Project co-ordinator Mark Wylie said: “On behalf of all the volunteers who went out to Romania and worked so hard to make a difference to some of the children living in orphanages, we would like to thank everyone who contributed towards our trip and helped us to make such a difference.

“We would also like to make a special mention of Jenny Teale, our ninth volunteer, who worked so hard all year with the fundraising, but who unfortunately wasn’t able to come with us. She was a huge miss!

“We couldn’t have done this without the huge generosity of the Shetland community. With your support, we were able to spend important time playing and caring for the children, and were able to leave a lasting legacy with educational books, games and learning materials, and for little boy a life-changing experience. It was a truly memorable trip.”