In July 2007, I boarded the plane to Romania without any idea of how much I would grow to love it. My three month stay passed so quickly and before I knew it, it was time to fly back to England. After working at a hospital and two family homes, coming back to my old job was a real shock and it wasn’t long before I was planning another visit to Romania. I missed being welcomed at the door by the children from the hospital, thinking of games to play and things to make for the children at the family homes. I missed their smiles and their willingness to be involved in everything. It seemed the most natural thing to return.
This time, I wanted to do a project as I knew the children and more of what to expect when I arrived. In the summer, I had worked at Dale family home; a home for older boys with mental disabilities. They had spent a lot of time in the garden which was overgrown, very dull and contained lots of chairs, wheelchairs, pieces of wood and metal. I decided to make the garden my project.
As I only had one week it was straight to work the morning after I arrived. I spent the morning with the boys and in the afternoon, I went to buy all of the paints. All day Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I worked in the garden, painting the fence blue, green and yellow. When the carers had a spare ten minutes, they would join me and bit by bit, the garden became a much brighter, happier place to be. The boys couldn’t wait for it to be finished so they also helped. Each morning, they would run up to the gate, take my hand and drag me in to the back garden where they wasted no time in taking the lids off all the paints, pushing the paintbrush towards me and showing me exactly which fence panel they wanted painting next! They were very excited to see the brown disappearing and colours showing in its place. If they thought I was working too slowly, they would take hold of the brush and cover the entire fence panel, themselves, the grass and anyone who was unfortunate enough to be around, in paint, in less than five seconds which was all very funny until they realised that they couldn’t stay blue forever and would have to go and wash it off!
By the time Friday came around, I had finished most of the fence and had painted the benches so I went to look at some garden furniture that the carers had asked for and some toys. On Saturday, Razvan (Oyster representative) and a couple of other volunteers very kindly gave up their day to help me finish. We went and picked up the furniture, gave the fence and benches another coat of paint and moved all of the wheelchairs and chairs. With their help, it took no time at all and by the time we had finished, the garden had been completely transformed and was now an area that the boys could play in safely.
It was an amazing week that I really enjoyed and I am very much looking forward to going back out again in the summer. Anyone who travels to Romania with Oyster will find it a very rewarding experience where solid friendships are made, not only with other volunteers but with everyone you may work alongside during your stay.
Written by Laura Marzaroli