Romania Revisited – February 2015

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Chairman Pete and good friend ‘Smiley’ set off to Romania for a short holiday on 20th February. After a couple of days of exploring the lovely medieval town of Brasov and a visit to Bran Castle, supposedly home to Dracula, they headed up north by minibus to the Reghin area of Transylvania.

It was inevitable that some charity work would interrupt this short amount of time originally planned for time to relax and drink beer!

They made a visit to Brincovenesti castle which had previously been home to 350 children and adults, supported by Holding Out Hope since 1992. The castle is now empty and has been given back to its rightful owner ‘the baron’ who had it taken from him during communist times, when it was used, until recently as an institution. They were given a tour of the castle which felt very strange for Pete, who had only ever seen it full of children and adults and it was also a shock for Smiley, who could not imagine vulnerable people living there.

It is fantastic that the children have now moved on, though very sad that the adults have been re-housed at the back of the castle in linked buildings, which are in effect mini institutions. Despite the fact that each unit has its own kitchen, the management and staff have the same old mentality and are serving food in huge pots carried from the ‘old kitchen’ linked to the castle, so institutionalised practice is evident and carries on despite the new buildings !!

Pete and Smiley visited the family in the forest who HOH supported for many years to care for their severely disabled daughter Anna. Sadly, Anna died a few months ago. Pete arranged a payment from HOH to pay the church for Anna’s burial and also arranged for their roof to be repaired in an attempt to keep the rain out. In addition, they went to a supermarket and bought food for the family, who are now even poorer as they no longer receive disability allowances for Anna.

Fairly close to Brincovenesti is a children’s home supported by HOH for abandoned children. Pete and Smiley popped in to say “hello”, taking along chocolate and goodies. The children were fantastic and could remember all of the previous trips made by HOH. They remembered the trip to the Zoo when most of them were around the age of 8. They also remembered going to MacDonald’s and the barbecue organised by Nailsea running club. They were all so grown up and were a delight, especially when they decided to sing songs for Pete and Smiley.

In Bucharest Pete and Smiley met Klara, HOH’s Romanian volunteer. Funds were given to Klara, who arranged to take the young people out of the Vidra institution. Plans were also put in place for Klara to act as translator with future groups of volunteers who may visit Vidra, though like many institutions HOH’s best input is to get people out as often as possible from these places. Klara also agreed to arrange to get MacDonald’s taken back for the most disabled people living in Vidra.

So what started out as a ‘holiday’ for Pete and Smiley, in the end turned into a ‘Charity trip’ as there was so much to fit in, though it was all worthwhile in the end. In many ways it was about saying goodbye to the Transylvania area as the castle has now closed and Anna has died. We will now direct our focus on Vidra, near Bucharest and Bulgaria.

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