I don’t really know why I chose Romania from Oyster’s destinations; I guess that I was just drawn to it, considering all the news about Ceauşescu’s orphanages in the past. I have never regretted my choice and really hope to go back soon. The children I worked with are unforgettable; I shall always remember their smiling faces, and their constant resilience to whatever was thrown their way. I remember them always being so happy to see me as if I was Father Christmas with loads of presents; one of the family homes houses 9 children aged 3 to 8 and as soon as I rang the gate door bell I would hear shouts and screams of “Annie! Annie!” then as I stepped through the door I would have nine pairs of arms around me, pushing each other to try to get nearer. These children were lovely, even though sometimes very boisterous they were forever making me laugh. The other family home I worked at was for children with more severe special needs; there might not have been much recognition of who I was but they were still really pleased to see me. In the homes, the staff are constantly busy and don’t always have time to play with each child as they have to spend most of their time looking after the children’s’ physical needs, so the volunteers play with them and give the crucial one-to-one affection and attention. It was through the efforts of the volunteers that a 4 year old girl with Down’s syndrome learned to walk when the doctors said it was unlikely. I was lucky enough to see her first steps without assistance and see her grow in confidence and start to explore her surroundings; I can’t explain how it was to see her do this, I don’t think I’ve ever done something so worthwhile and rewarding, it was amazing.
I also worked in the state children hospital alongside a play therapist on a ward of about 30-40 babies and older children up to the age of 16. Some parents have trouble getting to the hospital or are just too busy, so many of the babies would have to stay in their cots all day with no stimulation and interaction if it wasn’t for the volunteers – it made me feel so needed as these children were so desperate for comfort and support. I loved my time in Romania and was so sad to leave; Brasov (the city where I lived) was so beautiful and scenic and full of character.
Oyster was brilliant – very supportive and the representative in Romania was so helpful and made the transition much easier, helping us with any problems and the language (as most phrases I needed for looking after the kids were not found in common tourist phrase books!). I truly can’t wait to return, it was one of the best experiences of my life and has made me really appreciate what I have from seeing children that have nothing, and I would recommend it to anyone.
Annie Stevens Oyster Worldwide volunteer January 2008
For more information on childcare in Romania please visit our website www.oysterworldwie.com