It’s not very easy to get a feel for a country when you arrive at 10pm and all you can see is dark. We rose tired from our beds on Thursday morning and seen Romania in light for the first time.
FIrst we headed to the relaxed village of Negru Voda, where we were greeted by Christina who works as a kindergarten teacher in the local school. Her children put on a wonderful performance reciting poems and dancing. We were then treated with a traditional Romanian dancing performance which was full of energy and passion.
Then we were given time to relax and walk around the village. This gave us a good feeling for what Romania is like. There’s no doubt there is a relaxed vibe on the streets. People lounge around on the street, walking slowly and watching the world go by.
It was time to head off to the group homes to meet the beneficiaries. It was clear once we pulled up at the gate that they were brimming with excitement. We were once again greeted with open arms and amazing hospitality! The tables were covered with Romanian food and also one of the best and strongest coffee I have ever had! The beneficiaries had also prepared a dancing routine.
Split up among the group homes we engaged in arts and crafts with the clients. I had worked with people with disabilities before and even though there was a language barrier it didn’t take long for me to get involved and start enjoying working with them. Every client enjoys doing something different. I sat at the table and one client loved throwing a balloon across the table at me, always with a ball in his possession, not letting it go, similar to myself with a gaelic football!
Other clients loved stickers and bracelets. With only coloured paper and scissors I improvised, adapted and overcame and at the end I had made paper aeroplanes, buses, chinese lanterns and bracelets. The smiles on the clients are what motivates me, their energy and suspense fill the room. Happiness is key in the lifestyle of a Romanian woman we met in the Aurelia Trust group home built in 2000. Standing beside her 9 year old cat, she talked about how important family is to her and proceeded to tell us that this is why she is happy. Clearly they are not very materialistic in Romania and happiness is key in the lives of many. I definitely took some life lessons from this woman, she has definitely got her priorities right and we can all learn something from her.
Swiftly back on the bus, most of us were ready to collapse at this stage due to the 15 hours of travelling the previous day. Nevertheless, we battled on and Christina led us in a Romanian language workshop. I study French at school and really enjoy every other world language apart from Irish so this was enjoyable for me. I had studied some basic phrases before travelling so I had a basic knowledge but the Romanian students were a great help with pronunciation. These students have also been amazing in translating with clients which has been super for interacting.
After class we settled down and chilled for the evening, the lads have credited me with breaking the ice with the girls from Cork but honestly we have all got on really well so far. We played cards and got to know each other which was great. All the girls are really sound, along with everyone else on the project.
To conclude, Romania has opened my eyes to how people live in other countries. Poverty is side by side with wealth and ultimately it makes me appreciate the Emerald Isle much more! It is great to see that all the clients are well looked after and live simple but safe and happy lives.