Our mission to Romania in June was a great success. Our four transition year students, Gary Marron, Peter Wakely, Micheál Martin and James Carolan, are a credit to the High School for their hard work, courage and enthusiasm demonstrated on this volunteering mission. Well done to all involved.
Micheál has kindly put together an account of the trip which you can read below.
“In June of this year 4 transition year students and 3 teachers from the High School volunteered for one week in Casa Bridget, Nicoresti, Romania. Casa Bridget is a care home and day centre which was built in 2003 by Irish volunteers of the Cross Case charity to help care for both mentally and physically disabled orphans who were taken out of the local orphanage. Casa Bridget also offers a safe, fun and educational refuge for many of the village’s children and young adults.
During our trip we spent most of our time in the day centre. In the morning while we prepared the activities for the day the children were washed and given their breakfast. Every day the children were split into two classes, the older children went to the classroom upstairs and the younger ones were taught downstairs. From 10.30am to 1pm we did arts and crafts. We really enjoyed these activities with the children as they offered us a chance not only to learn their names but also to learn more about them, such as who their brothers or sisters were, what they liked most about school and who their friends were etc. Many of the children spoke broken English as they learn it at school, which made communicating so much easier. For those who didn’t speak English, such as the younger children, we were able to communicate by showing examples and using gestures. After our mornings teaching in the day centre we organised outdoor activities – mainly soccer, basketball and games. At 5pm the children made their way home.
We also spent some time with the residents of Casa Bridget during the week. Because of their disabilities the residents cannot communicate by speech. Many of them enjoyed having new faces about the place and loved simple things such as hand massages and having their nails painted. It was really lovely to watch them smile and laugh at such simple things. The care they are given by the carers who work in Casa Bridget is amazing and the quality of life of the residents is just incredible, especially in comparison to the orphanages where they grew up.
In the evening time we delivered food parcels to some of the people living in the village as well as handing out clothes and shoes which were donated to Cross Cause. We visited some of the homes of the day centre children and it was shocking to see the conditions these happy and ordinary kids were living in. With the help of the staff we were able to chat with the families and we got a real idea of how unfair and difficult their lives are. Most homes had no running water or electricity and the horse and cart was their main mode of transport. Many of the people were unclean, underfed and living in unimaginably poor quality shelters. During these visits we witnessed the true extent of what poverty is and how devastating it is on families and their children – we had our eyes open to how deprived and unfortunate these people’s lives really are. On one of the final days in Nicoresti we organised a barbeque at a lake near the village for some of the village residents and all the staff, residents and day centre kids of Casa Bridget. It was a fantastic day and one that was thoroughly enjoyed by all involved.
Every day we also carried out a variety of maintenance jobs from cleaning the Casa Bridget van to cleaning and repainting the front wall and railings, washing the windows of the building, cleaning out the chicken coop and repainting the back fence and mural. Casa Bridget is a massive place where many small jobs like repainting are forgotten about simply because of a lack of funds and in some cases, there is need for repairs in other, more urgent circumstances. We knew how much it meant to the caretakers, staff and residents to carry out these jobs and brighten the place up.
From our time in Nicoresti, we have learned that even in the most impoverished areas where there is no running water, no electricity, where corruption and serious social problems are all very real, there is still a real sense of community, gratitude and love. We found this experience to be one of the most enjoyable, eye-opening, heartening and shocking experiences of our lives. We encountered first-hand how difficult it is for some people to survive let alone live in these harsh and appalling circumstances. We realise now how lucky we are to live in such a privileged part of the world and we have learned the importance of family, community and friends; because at the end of the day they are all that really matter. Our week in Nicoresti was an unforgettable one and we would love to visit it again in the future.”