Pete’s Trip – September 2016

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Doing one of our charity trips to either Romania or Bulgaria on your own is not always easy! However everything went quite smoothly, which I know was all down to the planning. I was away for a week. I departed on 20th September, flying from Birmingham to Sofia and returned on 27th.

The first day I went to the small group home and met Ralitsa, Katya and the children. We all spent the afternoon getting to know each other which was great. Most have grown since I saw them last, however Stoyan seems to have shrunk and did not appear well, Dani was not so good and continues to hear voices, Erhan is now restrained most of the time, which I did question. All others were fine.

I had contacted Vesi, so she turned up the next day and we spent the whole day there together with Katya. I spent a lot of time when not being interrupted by Milen and Krassi talking to Katya. No concerns about Katya being our new employee at this home as she has all of the qualities and values required for the job. I observed her with the children when we were out in a nearby park and I was impressed with her kindness and patience. Also, I was very impressed with Vesi, travelling so far to be with us.

Next day after a six hour bus journey I arrived in Razgrad and met Polina, Yuksel and eight residents, who we took to the hairdressers as they all wanted their hair coloured. Being predictable, I asked for the Barry Manilow ‘special’, however the hairdresser thought I was beyond help ! We took everybody for a pizza which they loved and then they all went back to Samuil.

In the morning it was straight to Billa supermarket to buy lots of individual gifts for 15 residents in nearby group home and the same for 8 residents’ atTodor’s home, 10k away. Then I went to a nearby shop and bought small items of jewellery for the girls and pants for the men. We bought a huge amount of goodies for a picnic and were then picked up by Yuksel and the group, so there were around 21 of us in the van !.

After a few hours of food and fun we drove to Shumen to drop Polina home. On the way we stopped at Samuil. I was concerned about a number of things, particularly that the more dependent inmates appeared to look very neglected, with the usual bruises and scratches on their faces. They have also erected a fence at the back of the building, which restricts the inmates movements even further. I had to ask to be let through a locked gate to enable me to say hello to everybody. This all made the place look like a prison camp.

The next day I was up early to do more shopping, mainly fags and chocolate for the main Samuil institution. Yuksel picked me up and then we went to pick up 5 inmates from Samuil, 5 from Lily’s home and then 5 from Todor’s home, which is something I have wanted to do for years. We drove to Shumen, met Polina, had hot dogs and a drink and then went to the cinema to see Ice age 2 in 3D which they loved, after coffee and ice cream we headed back home.

I was up early next morning for the torturous bus journey back to Sofia. Katya had booked me into a new hotel near the SGH so I checked in. I then met Angie at the SGH in the afternoon and we agreed ground rules around Katya’s employment and agreed what the procedure would be should katya decide to leave. After a really good sleep (no dogs around) I spent the morning at the SGH, taking Krassi out to the park, which he loved and just some quality time with the kids. Katya was kind enough to take me to the airport for my problem free flight back home.

All in all, a very productive trip. My weekend in Razgrad was during a national holiday, however Yukesl (who should have been on holiday) spent the whole weekend with me out with groups. He is fantastic with the inmates, consistently demonstrating kindness, compassion and understanding, however at Samuil all he can do is attempt to control this large group of institutionalised people, so further institutionalised practices are implemented.

We still need to believe that this place should close as the inmates are condemned to a life sentence with no chance of parole.

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