Lili’s Reflection – English

Experimenting the first Erasmus + project is for me a new stage in my personal career development, but also a life lesson that I think all project beneficiaries have felt in a positive way.

Throughout the course of the project, both in Romania and Ireland, I believe that the main goal was to be aware of the importance of volunteering by young teenagers in all its forms.

The involvement of young people in this project, the extraordinary way in which they were related for a common purpose, above prejudices, to change preconceptions and attitudes, was the biggest win of the project.

The visits made by teenagers in the institutions for people with special needs had created a cascade reactions on their part. It was emotion, it was joy, there were tears, it was smile, it was change, it was awareness. For each one of us.
Both group leaders and students have had something to learn from this experience.
I think the most important lesson for all of us was that together we can do so many beautiful and beneficial things if we have the right attitude.

Volunteering in this sector, for people with disabilities, is still at the beginning in Romania, but it has positive echoes.

The coordination of the project with great professionalism and responsibility by Niall, but also the way everyone involved in the project, the overcoming of the personal barriers, the exit from the comfort zone, the dissemination of the information, led to the success of the project.

Now, at the end of the project, I want everything that we have learned together to be an example of good practice for our future work and to be able to convey our message further.

Changing minds … even managed to change people … attitudes … ideas … And we did this … together!

Lili’s Reflection – Romanian

Experimentarea primului proiect Erasmus+ este pentru mine o noua etapa in dezvoltarea carierei personale, dar si o lectie de viata pe care cred ca toti beneficiarii proiectului au resimtit-o intr-un mod pozitiv.
Pe tot parcursul derularii proiectului, atat in Romania, cat si in Irlanda, cred ca principalul scop a fost constientizarea importantei voluntariatului de catre tinerii adolescenti , in toate formele acestuia.
Implicarea tinerilor in acest proiect, modul extraordinar in care au relationat pentru un scop comun, mai presus de prejudecati, pentru a schimba atitudini si idei preconcepute, a fost cel mai mare castig al proiectului.
Vizitele efectuate la centrele destinate persoanelor cu dizabilitati de catre tinerii adolescenti au adus reactii in cascada din partea acestora. A fost emotie, a fost bucurie, au fost lacrimi, a fost zambet, a fost schimbare, a fost constientizare . Pentru fiecare dintre noi. Atat liderii de grup, cat si elevii am avut cate ceva de invatat din aceasta experienta.
Cred ca cea mai importanta lectie pentru noi toti a fost faptul ca impreuna putem face atat de multe lucruri frumoase si benefice, daca avem atitudinea potrivita. Voluntariatul in acest sector destinat persoanelor cu dizabilitati este inca la inceput in Romania, dar are ecouri positive.
Coordonarea proiectului cu mare profesionalism si raspundere de catre Niall, dar si modul in care au comunicat toti cei implicati in proiect, depasirea barierelor personale, iesirea din zona de confort a fiecaruia, diseminarea informatiei, a dus la desfasurarea cu succes a acestuia.

Acum , la final de proiect, imi doresc ca tot ce am invatat impreuna, sa fie un exemplu de bune practici pentru activitatea noastra viitoare si sa reusim sa transmitem mesajul nostru mai departe.
Changing minds…..chiar a reusit sa schimbe oameni…atitudini…idei…
Si am facut asta…impreuna!

Andra’s Reflection

Andra is a psychologist that works with D.G.A.S.P.C. – please scroll down for reflection in English.

Eu am inceput aceasta experienta cu mult entuziasm si dorinta de a invata ceva nou! Experienta din proiect m-a facut sa imi schimb parerea mult despre viata mea, despre ce am, sa apreciez ce conteaza cu adevarat!
Am observat doua lucruri, primul este deschiderea noii generatii de tineri, dorinta de a afla lucruri despre diverse diagnostice, de la ce a pornit si cel mai important lucru , cum pot sa contribuie la o viata mai buna !Al doilea lucru, simtim, concluzie facem ceea ce simtim!
Ce putem face acum? Cum sa fac asta?Sunt cele doua intrebari care au fost puse foarte des.
M-a uimit elanul vital, setea lor de a cunoaste informatii noi si sa le puna imediat in practica cu beneficiarii. Initial erau tematorii voluntarii, nu pentru ca urma sa interactioneze cu persoane cu nevoie speciale ci pentru ca credeau ca cunosc detalii despre ei .Voluntarii au realizat o conexiune puternica cu beneficiarii, din prima clipa, totul a fost spontan,ei s-au adaptat imediat la nevoile lor, au gasit cai de cumunicare nimic nu i-a oprit.
Pentru mine a fost o experienta extraordinara, am avut ocazia sa invat, sa colaborez si sa schimb mintiilor lor

I have started this experience with much enthusiasm and the desire to learn something new! The experience of the project made me feel much better about my life, what I have, and to appreciate what really matters!

I have noticed two things, the first is the opening of the new generation of young people, the desire to learn things about various diagnoses, from what started the most important thing, how can they contribute to a better life! Second, we are human, we feel, we do …in conclusion we do what we feel!

What can we do now? How do I do that? These are the two questions that have been asked very often.

I was amazed by the vital urge, their thirst for knowing new information and putting them into practice immediately with the beneficiaries. Initially, volunteers were fearful, not because they were going to interact with people with special needs, but because they thought they knew nothing about them. The volunteers made a strong connection with the beneficiaries, from the first moment, everything was spontaneous, they immediately adapted to their needs, they found ways of communication and nothing stopped them.

For me it was an extraordinary experience, I had the opportunity to learn, to collaborate and to change my mind and other’s minds.

An Opportunity I Nearly Missed

Reflecting back on the ERASMUS+ experience as a whole I would say it definitely had a positive impact on me as a person. Thinking back to this time last year when we were picked to go I was excited about the opportuntity. Its what I’m about I love to take opportunities. Before I went to Romania I was terribly ambitious in life but only with regard to one thing, Sport. It was coming to the important part of our school season and and myself and Ultan were worried we might miss a Connacht final. Unfortunatley and Fortunately:) we got knocked out the week before we were due to head to East Europe and we were free to go. That’s how close we were to not getting on that plane, but sometimes the most lifechanging experiences are the ones you nearly miss.

The Romania trip made me open up to living life and what its about. The country as a whole and also working with the beneficeries gave me a realisation that I had been caught up in silly things in life. I hadn’t given time to important things in life. Spending time with the beneficiaries taught me that things you may not think will make you happy do. As Browner said “the simplest of things make them happy”.
Their love of spending time with us, told me that People are at the heart of all great things. The people involved in the changing mins project made it and without everyone it would have been nothing. We learned so much from the Romanian students including their wonderful phrases and sayings. Thinking back to the days when we first met its funny. We were on the bus for two hours before we ever said a word to the girls. In Negru voda I don’t think any of us really interacted until we did an interview with George. By the end we were and are a unique family. Also as Susan eluded to ” there was no pains in the ass”. Everyone got on well.

This project was a case of venturing into the unknown and it certainly opened my eyes to the problems we still face today as people. It has spurred my ambition to go and help. Thanks to everyone who made it possible yee* are a gr8 bunch

Aoife’s Blog

It has been 3 months since we arrived home from our week in Romania although it feels like it was just yesterday that we walked through the doors to the group homes where we were welcomed with enthusiasm and hugs. I can still clearly remember the faces of the recipients as we danced in the main building, they were filled with pure happiness. It has been a bit more quiet recently in regards to the project but it is full steam ahead now for the conference in August. It seems now as if our project is closer to the finish line but there is still plenty more to do and I am looking forward to our jam packed week at the end of August!

Liam’s Blog

So, it’s been over a month now since we arrived home from our trip to Romania. It’s when I look back that I realise what a life changing experience we had, and all the great memories we made. It was such a surreal experience over in Romania and this past month it has been hard to believe that I was a part of it. Since arriving home, preparations have already began for when the Romanian students visit us in August. We have another meeting today to discuss our plans for August and we have lots of great activities in mind. This month has flew and I hope the next two months do too because we cannot wait to all meet up again!

A month to the day – Alicia’s Blog

A month to the day and I still have recollections of our trip some are happy, some are sad, but all are invaluable. Not a day goes by where I don’t have some sort of retrospection from the week, whether it be hearing a song we sang in the back of a minibus with Susan, looking for a watch I realise I gave to a client and having a total reality check, sitting in French class thinking about how awful I was at pronouncing Romanian in Claudius or cleaning my room and finding art I got from the beneficiaries. These are precious memories, ones that will never leave my side. A month ago today I left Skibbereen with excitement and maybe slight naivety for what was ahead. There was no talk, video or presentation that could’ve prepared me, the experience alone was the sole realisation to this almost completely different universe I entered for a week.

A month ago tomorrow I had my first experience in a Group Home, they danced and sang at our arrival. I guess their happiness surprised me a little, they were so happy to see us even though they didn’t know many us, so welcoming and appreciative of everyone. In Ireland, as a society, we could label ourselves as critics, judgemental, and maybe even conventional to a degree. Yes we are welcoming, to those we choose to welcome, it’s what we feel comfortable with and is far from open. In the last 10, 20 years we are slowly breaking out of that outlook, your religion, race, gender, political views, sexuality shouldn’t change people’s treatment of you. We are all the same, we are all human.

A month on Sunday and I had my very first trip to a Pilot Centre. On entering the first house there was an overpowering smell of bleach. As we walked down the corridor we were welcomed by the nurses and suddenly we were in a small room full of clients. The severity of some of the physical disabilities made me feel powerless and emotional. I didn’t interact very well in that first home, but come the second house I conversed with a lady who said to me “I am aware of my disability but I am beautiful and intelligent”. This was one of the most inspiring things I’ve heard, there is a great lesson in that sentence, To put it simply, no matter what your situation, if you have a disability, an illness or something has set you back you are always beautiful and self-appreciation and self-love is the best attribute a person can have.

Rosie’s Reflection

Looking back on my time in Romania brings floods of emotions through my mind. I can still remember the smiles of so many clients as their faces still greet me every time I think of my time there. Their generosity although they had so little is something that I will never forget.

I cannot express how proud I am of the students that traveled from SCS. The girls were amazing and were 100% committed to the purpose of the trip. They weren’t taken back by anything that was out of their comfort zone and really embraced the experience.

Although I was on the trip as an accompanying teacher for my 5 fantastic students, I really feel that I grew as a person from the experience. It was humbling and eye opening. It made me really appreciate the little things in life. I found it amazing that something as simple as a touch or a smile could bring comfort to these adult orphans.

The trip has made me appreciate the beauty of Romania and the beauty of the people there.

Never underestimate the effect that music can have on someone

Never underestimate the effect that music can have on someone.

Okay so if you’re reading this then this may come off as a little bit random and off-topic but I promise I’ll try and link it in with the Changing Minds project!

So today, Easter Sunday, I was having, as I’d put it, “one of those days”. What I mean by that is just a day where I’m in absolutely terrible form and just down for no apparent reason. Fun? No. However, my day changed at about 11.20pm. Maybe leaving it a little late but nonetheless I appreciated it.

My day changed when I heard a piece of music. One of my friends posted a cover of 500 Miles by The Proclaimers on her Instagram page she had made for singing. I had never heard her sing before. That one minute clip, to some people, wouldn’t mean much. Anyone could tell she was a very talented musician, but with the day I was having, it was a lot more than just a nice piece of music.

When I heard that soulful, raspy voice, I was transported away for a whole 63 seconds. I’m not usually an emotional person but I was nearly in tears. To go from thinking so negatively about myself and the world and just wanting the day to be over, to whatever kind of release I got from listening to that piece, it showed me something. I had always acknowledged the affect music has had on me, but never quite found the words to describe it. Today, I found solace in music. I found hope in music.

So, going back to the project. Whatever way my mind wandered from negativity to this in about two minutes is anyone’s guess. Anyways, I noticed that music had an affect on the clients too. In the group homes, there was music on. On a normal day, I wouldn’t read into this. We have music on in the background all the time in our own lives, whether we’re driving to work, going for a run or just relaxing in the comforts of our own homes. But today, I think music meant a lot more than what meets the eye to the clients.

In Negru Voda, not only was there music, but the clients performed music by singing and dancing. In Lazu, some of us were dancing with the clients when certain songs came on that they enjoyed, and the same in Techirghiol. The way their faces lit up (I remember one client in particular enjoying I’m Not The Only One by Sam Smith) just says to me not to say that music is just a pastime or hobby. It’s so much more than that. It might bring back a good memory, or a bad one. It might describe an emotion we’re feeling better than our own words ever could. For some people music is an escape, a release, even a reason they’re still alive.

So on this long Easter weekend, that we’re either having a nice family dinner, out having a good time with our friends or maybe even playing music, take a minute to appreciate the power of music.

Ronan’s Blog

It’s been over a week since we returned from Romania. We had such a jam packed week and it could not have been spent with a better group of people. I really enjoyed spending time in the group homes and interacting with the clients. They are full of energy and its amazing what makes them happy. Every now and then I get reminded of the clients and their wonderful personalities. The Romanian students and teachers were great hosts and it will be hard for us to live up to their standards when they come to Ireland. While I learned a lot about the country of Romania and its people I also learned a lot about myself. In a world where we can get caught up in things that seem important to us at the time, in the grand scheme of things they are only small. In general, since I have returned I feel more content in my life.

I think I will definitely return to Romania in the near future and I can empathise with Marie and what drove her to keep going back.
At the moment we are working on a presentation to give to some of the students in our school on our experience.

Andreea’s Blog

Mă trezisem de dimineață deoarece mai aveam bagaje de facut si eram foarte încântată că voi pleca într-un nou proiect unde voi avea ocazia să cunosc persoane de aceeași vârstă cu mine cu care aveam mai tarziu sa merg in diferite case pentru a le oferi din atentia si zambetele noastre celor care aveau nevoie sa vorbească despre ei si cum e viata lor, să socializeze si sa fie aproape de noi.
Dupa aproape trei ore de mers cu mașina, ajungem la hotelul Ioris unde suntem primiti cu entuziasm de cățelușul celor care detin pensiunea.
Fiindcă eram primii ajunsi, puteam decide cu cine sa stam si ideea de a sta cu cea mai buna prietena a mea m-a încântat foarte tare, apoi am decis impreuna sa mergem sa ne plimbam prin Techirghiol având in vedere ca eram aproape de lac.

Ziua 2

M-am trezit brusc. Se auzeau voci si usi care se deschideau si inchideau. M-am uitat la ceas si era doua dimineata. Cei din Irlanda sosisera. Voiam sa ies din camera mea si sa-i salut, dar am crezut ca este destul de ciudat si m-am pus la somn inapoi pana la micul dejun.
Cobor scările incet, fara a face zgomot si ii vad pe toti stand la masa spunând “Good morning”.
Ne grabeam sa mancam si noi pentru a ajunge cat mai repede la Negru Vodă sau cum ii spune noi, Radu Negru Vodă pentru ca eram foarte curiosi cum va fi si ce va urma.
Ne-am urcat in autocar cu totii si am pornit. Acolo, in fata casei de cultura, ne aștepta o doamna alaturi de 3 elevi, fiecare dintre ei foarte primitor si cu zambetul pe buze. Pentru ca era 8 martie primarul orasului a adus fiecarei fete/femei câte o floare si o bratara, urandu-ne fiecareia “La mulți ani!”, iar directoarea ne-a prezentat fiecare clasa, apoi aceeasi doamna care ne-a primit, a realizat un spectacol atât pentru noi, cat si pentru beneficiari. Serbarea a fost dedicata in special mamelor.
Dupa-amiaza am mers la casele beneficiarilor care pareau sa ne asteapte. Fiecare dintre ei avea o poveste pe care astepta cu nerăbdare sa o spuna si un zâmbet care astepta o îmbrățișare strânsă.
Ne-au oferit câte un cadou si o felicitare pe care sunt sigura ca le voi pastra foarte mult timp de acum si nu voi uita cat de mult au încercat sa ne faca sa ne simtim bine: au dansat pentru noi, au gătit, au facut prăjituri atât de bune încât am cerut reteta si nu in ultimul rand, ne-au facut sa ne simtim minunat.

Ziua 4

Ne-am facut bagajele de dimineata si am pornit din nou spre Constanța unde aveam sa stam in ultima noastra noapte. Camera mea avea priveliste la mare.

Elaine’s Reflection

I can’t believe it was only last week, it feels like a lifetime ago! I keep thinking ‘this time last week..’ and then I get this longing to be back. Only now do I realise just how much I enjoyed it. It was such a change from day to day life and the worry about the small, insignificant things. It was a week that offered a lot of clarity to me personally and I genuinely feel honoured to have experienced it.

Angel’s Blog

Ziua 1

Asteptam cu nerăbdare ziua aceasta, deoarece eram pe cale sa întâlnesc tineri din alta tara cu care voi putea socializa și cu care voi porni în misiunea de a schimba mentalitățile oamenilor

Ne-am întâlnit la casa de cultura a orașului Negru Vodă, tinerii din Irlanda cât și cei din Galați au fost foarte entuziasmați sa ne cunoască.

După ce ne-am cunoscut, Cristina ne-a pregătit un spectacol dedicat zilei mămicii cu copiii de la grădiniță, iar mai apoi, trupa de dansuri populare a orașului ne-au prezentat 4 dansuri.
Fiind ziua internaționala a femeii, doamna director a liceului din Negru Voda, alături de primarul orasului au împărțit mărțișoare și flori doamnelor și domnișoarelor.

După spectacol, am mâncat pizza și am pornit spre căsuțele protejate din Negru Vodă. Acolo am fost primiți cu o masa pregătită de catre personalul de acolo. Imediat după ce am mancat, am mers în casele beneficiarilor și am avut parte de foarte multa distracție. Am desenat, ne-am jucat cu baloane și am socializat cu ei. Mai apoi am fost și la prima casa protejata construita la începutul anului 2000 de către fundația Aurelia Trust.

Am încheiat ziua cu un workshop lingvistic organizat de Cristina în care s-a încercat trecerea unor bariere de comunicare.

Cristina’s Blog

Ziua 1

8 Martie. Dimineata…agitatie si emotie…prima zi a proiectului. Evenimentele din aceasta zi vor fi organizate de catre noi, partenerii de la Liceul Teoretic Negru-Voda. Imi doresc ca totul sa iasa bine, sa ne prezentam in fata invitatilor cu gratie si atitudini positive.
Ziua incepe….conduc…pe drum imi trec prin minte toate lucrurile pe care le am de facut…mai dau un telefon…si inca unul…
Este ora 9.30….telefonul suna din nou….invitatii sunt aproape. Au venit!!!!
Ma prezint.Imi prezint echipa: Angel, George si Lavinia. Incepem. Sunt emotionata si nu vreau sa se vada prea mult, sa nu afecteze activitatile ce vor urma. Si ce? Daca pana la urma se vede, ….we are humans anyway!
Apar si invitatii speciali : d-na director a liceului, Palas Natalia si primarul orasului Negru-Voda, domnul Petre Urzicenu. Avand in vedere ca este o zi speciala, ziua mamei si a femeii in general, invitatii ofera doamnelor flori si martisoare. Este ceva ce nu stiam ca se va intampla.
Urmeaza momentul artistic pe care l-am pregatit cu puiutii mei, de la gradi. Sunt emotionati. Si ei. Si eu. Si mamicile.
Apoi, momentul artistic urmator este o sesiune de dansuri populare organizat de ansamblul localitatii “Sanzaiene dobrogene”. Ma uit la fetele invitatilor. Toti zambesc si ne felicita. Pfuuu! Inseamna ca am realizat ceea ce mi-am propus. Doamne-ajuta!
Dupa masa de pranz mergem sa vizitam locuintele protejate din Negru-Voda. Sunt putin cu sufletul la gura pentru ca nu stiu cu vor reactiona elevii la tot ce se petrece in aceste institutii. Experientele anterioare insa imi dau un good vibe…si exact asa se si intampla. Touché si de data asta! Elevii sunt uimitori…curiosi, interesati de tot ceea ce se intampla. Exact ce ne doream! Interactiune si atitudini positive! Bravo copii! Sunt mandra de voi!
Ne punem la drum…ajungem la Vila Iorys din Techirghiol. Urmatorul work shop l-am pregatit tot eu. Stiu ca suntem cu totii obositi…dar…surprinzator, elevii din Irlanda par nerabdatori sa facem workshopul lingvistic. Vor sa invete cate expresii uzuale pe care sa le foloseasca in activitatile cu beneficiarii. Facem cateva exercitii si, desi pare foarte greu, se dovedeste a nu fi chiar asa!

Ziua 2

7.10…liniste….deodata se aud usi inchizandu-se si deschizandu-se….forfota. Ne pregatim de plecarea la Muzeul de Arta Populara si la Muzeul Marinei din Constanta. Vor merge cu noi beneficiarii de la Locuintele Protejate Techirghiol.
Ajungem la ei. Toti ma intampina strigandu-ma pe nume. Ne cunoastem de ani de zile datorita Fundatiei Aurelia Trust. Mergem impreuna in tabere inca din 2006.
Am petrecut cateva ore fabuloase alaturi de elevii implicati in proiect si de beneficiari. Coloram impreuna, ne jucam cu baloane, radem, dansam. Este extraordinara capacitatea acestor tineri, modul in care interactioneaza. Nu exista bariere de limba …niciuna …toti zambesc si fac diverse lucruri. Fab!
La vila…munca…avem de pregatit o multime de lucruri pentru conferinta, pentru site, se iau interviuri, este o forfota generala. Toata lumea lucreaza la ceva. Suntem impartiti in grupe de lucru, fiecare are sarcini specifice. Chiar continuam sesiunea de lucru in camera , cu elevii, vin si cativa profesori. Toata lumea pare determinata. Imi place.

Ziua 3

Dimineata…inca simt ca mi-e somn. Ajung la micul dejun. Incepem sa facem planuri. Imi revin instant. Dau cateva telefoane. Toate par la locul lor.
Plecam sa vedem beneficiarii de la Casutele Protejate din Lazu. De abia astept sa-I vad. Le-am povestiti elevilor cu o seara inainte cat de minunati sunt, cat de bine crescuti, ce gradina frumoasa au, cat de minunat este persoalul de acolo.
Ajungem. Incepe joaca, Bucuria se vede pe fetele tuturor. Elevii stiu déjà ca le trebuie atat de putin sa fie fericiti. Si asta facem. Asa este rolul nostru acolo. Sa ii facem fericiti. Dupa amiaza mergem la delfinariul din Constanta. Ce spectacol! Copiii aplauda si rad. Este cel mai important!
Lucru nou: la Delfinariu gasim un lift special creat pentru transportul persoanelor cu dizabilitati. Bravo! Ma bucura acest lucru. Inseamna ca si noi romanii incepem sa ne civilizam. Bravo!
Seara….a kind of fancy dinner….toata lumea este acolo. Déjà parca ne cunoastem de nu stiu cand. Imi place senzatia. De fapt, mereu e asa cu cei din Irlanda. Eu stiu asta. Elevii insa abia afla asta.


Ziua a inceput cu destul de multa agitatie , urmand ca astazi sa schimbam hotelul. Dar inainte de asta elevii vor merge sa viziteze centrul Artemia. Sunt putin retinuta. Nu stiu ce reactie vor avea elevii astazi. Este un centru care poate sa provoace reactii …in cascada. Noi , adultii, suntem acolo pentru ei daca vor avea nevoie de suport emotional. Ceea ce se si intampla….
Cu o parte din beneficiarii de la acest centru am fost sa vizitam Acvariul din Constanta. Se pare ca beneficiarilor le-a placut aceasta experienta alaturi de tinerii voluntari. Se pare ca fiecare pas pe care il facem in proiectul nostru este de bun augur.
La pranz ajungem la hotel Ibis unde va avea loc conferinta din Constanta.
Conferinta incepe. Elevii stau asezati in sala de conferinte in semicerc. Mary incepe sa vorbeasca. Vocea ei calma, povestind despre munca Aurelia Trust in Romania ii face pe elevi sa nici nu clipeasca. Ma uit la copiii mei, George , Lavinia si Angel. Sunt ochi si urechi. Ma bucura asta, au sansa sa afle multe si ma face sa cred ca acest proiect nu va ramane la stadiul acesta. Ma face sa cred ca ei sunt cei care vor face o schimbare in viata persoanelor cu dizabilitati. Chiar nu sunt simple vorbe, chiar sper ca aceste lucruri se vor intampla.



Proiectul continua…Pe drum , Andra, psihologul centrului Artemia ne face sa uitam ca avem un drum lung de parcurs, de la Constanta catre Galati. A pregatit o serie de jocuri amuzante si toata lumea participa. Radem. Impreuna. Imi place tare mult ideea aceasta….de a fi impreuna. Pentru acelasi scop. Ajungem si la destinatie. Ploua.
Valentina ne-a pregatit o vizita la Seminarul Teologic. Am ramas impresionata de atelirele de arta ale Seminarului,unde elevii fac icoane prin diverse tehnici, dar si de vocea lui Andrei, un elev al liceului care ne-a cantat o piesa muzicala clasica.

Seara….o cina la restaurantul de pe Turnul Televiziunii….priveliste grozava….atat in exteriorul restaurantului, dar si in interiorul acestuia. Grupuri mixte de tineri…din nou….aceleasi scop…

Zambesc…din nou….

Oisin’s Reflection

While it’s been a few days now since we left Romania, the whole experience is only starting to hit me now. The thoughts and emotions running through my mind are endless but I think I can sum it all up in a short blog.

The group homes and the pilot centre, while I could never unsee the bad side of these places, it’s the amazing people I’ve met along the way that I’ll remember the most. In the week that I spent in Romania, I saw many places and met lots of people. Nowhere is perfect. Ireland isn’t and neither is Romania. However, in all bad there is good. The beauty of some places is not in the scenery, or the architecture. It’s in the people, and in Romania the people are the most selfless and genuine people I’ve ever met.

In a rich country like Ireland, money talks. We’re judged on the number of digits in our bank accounts or the weight of the ring on our fingers. It’s different in Romania. It felt like the less money people had the less it mattered. We should be judged by our character, not our wealth and I genuinely believe that our wealth stops us from considering that. We’re blinded to a certain degree by it over here, but much less so in Romania. One conversation I had with a local gave me this insight. She never had much, but she was happy. She said her family, and her friends were what mattered most to her. It really makes me wonder why we can’t be like that here.

Growing up, we dream big. We want to be famous sportspeople, musicians, politicians and entrepreneurs. It doesn’t always turn out like that. We can’t all be everything to everyone. When we don’t achieve the near-impossible, it hurts us. What we don’t realise is the difference we can make to the people around us. I’m just an average 16-year-old from Castlebar. I’m not famous and I’m not rich. That isn’t perfect but this week I learned that we don’t have to be all that to make a difference. When I was playing with the beneficiaries, I meant the world to them. Their smiles and their laughs, this showed me something. I meant so much to them, and from that I learned that I could make a difference. Making a difference and changing the world are two very different things. We struggle to separate the two. It isn’t until we learn the latter that we can appreciate the former.

Making a difference, mattering, when we appreciate it, it’s the best feeling. Maybe it’s just me, but putting a smile on someone else’s face is the most rewarding thing you can ever do. The fact that I never thought I could make such a difference is just the cherry on top. Maybe realising these things has come from having come home and living my normal life where nothing happens but if I can make a difference to someone, or anyone, it’ll be worthwhile. Maybe I still can change the world. I’m only young, But if I don’t then so be it because I’ll know that I can still matter to people without being everything to everyone.

Life is strange. It’s one of the few things people can agree on. Maybe we can appreciate life a little more when we acknowledge that it isn’t perfect. We all have problems and we all have setbacks. If we understand this then we can be grateful for the good things in our lives.

Poppy’s Blog – A trip out with the beneficiaries

We started off the day (9/3/18) going to collect the clients from the group home in Techirghiol and took them to the navy museum in Constanta. As soon as they got on the bus they were full of life and energy and were so excited for the day ahead as were we.
One of the clients came and sat down next to me and straight away gave me a bracelet she had made earlier in the day. She held my hand for the whole bus journey to the museum and her hands were so cold.

I found the language barrier extremely difficult because I didn’t understand what the clients were trying to ask me and I couldn’t reply.
When we got to the museum we were given a tour while learning about the history of Romania. I had several different clients come up and walk around with me.

After we had finished the tour of the museum we then walked to the art museum which took around ten minutes. Once we got to the art museum we were split into two groups, one group was given a tour upstairs and the other downstairs. Again we were given a talk about all the historical art which was really interesting.

We then had to take the clients back to the group home and then we went for lunch.

After lunch we went back to the group home in Techirghiol and we did art with the clients. They were all very involved in the art and were making so many different cards and drawings which was so nice to see.

After spending an hour with the clients we went back to the hotel for a few hours and then at five we walked down to the pier for some footage of the group while the sun was setting. The scenery was amazing and we got footage on the drone of all of us spelling out Aurelia. After the sunset Susan did a mindfulness session with us and I found it really helped us to wind down after the day.

When we got back to the hotel we did a workshop on our project outputs and I was in the website group which I really enjoyed!

Oisin’s Blog – Day 4

We went to the Pilot Centre this morning to meet their clients. Their clients were more severely disabled so this was the biggest challenge of the week so far. We didn’t get that long with the clients but I still enjoyed my time there. I always like a challenge. I spent about forty minutes with the clients in the house so I still got a good impression of what the place and the people were like.

After that, we brought a small number of the clients to the aquarium in Constanta. The clients had a lot of fun in the aquarium, looking at all the different fish. The aquarium was on the Constanta promenade so we had time to look out at the view of the Black Sea. The endless sea of blue was a sight to behold, without a doubt.

We stayed in Constanta after the clients left because we are staying the night in a hotel here. We went for lunch in a Greek restaurant. At first glance, I was dreading it because I’m not an adventurous eater but the food I had there was some of the nicest I’ve ever had. After some free time, we spent time in our groups preparing for the conference in Galati on Tuesday.

An easy day was well needed and it was one that I enjoyed a lot. I can’t believe most of the week is already gone!

Oisin’s Blog – Day 3

Today we got to meet another group home. This one was in Lazu, just outside of Constanta. I probably enjoyed today the most because we were able to interact with these clients a bit more. We started the day by going to their home, which was about a ten minute drive from our hotel in Techirghiol. We met the clients and were playing with them for about an hour and a half.

There was one client with severe Cerebral Palsy so he couldn’t speak. However, he was able to communicate very well with his body language. He wrote everyone’s names into his notepad and he was able to point out everyone in the room who’s name he’d written. I found his mannerisms very interesting.

Before we left, we were given Romanian doughnuts. I wouldn’t be a very open-minded eater but the doughnut was delicious. It’s probably a lot healthier than our own doughnuts as well!

We left to get lunch after this in the same restaurant as yesterday. This gave us lots of energy to bring the clients from Lazu to the zoo in the afternoon. We started with a dolphin show indoors before taking a tour of the outside areas of the zoo. The dolphin show was very fun for our group to watch but the clients enjoyed it a thousand times more. Even if they couldn’t express it, they looked so excited by watching the dolphins perform. The outside area of the zoo wasn’t as enjoyable because the clients were a little bit tired. As much as they liked the day, I don’t think they were too sad to come home again when the time came.

After some free time, we went for dinner in Constanta in a restaurant called New Pizzico. While I wasn’t particularly gone on the food, it was a good experience for getting to know the others a lot better. It was a long day but an enjoyable one. Let’s hope the good weather keeps up!

Oisin’s Blog – Day 2

This morning we had to get into the swing of things straight away because we had lots to do. We started by meeting with the clients from the Techirghiol group home, who were just a few doors down from the hotel. We brought the group of about twenty beneficiaries to two museums.

The first museum was all about the history of the Romanian Navy. Even though I found the museum very interesting with lots of cool and classy weapons, what was even more interesting though was looking at how happy the clients were. Even though they didn’t fully understand what was going on in the museum, they were absolutely enthralled by just being out and about.

The second museum was, in my opinion, much less interesting. It was an art museum that had different items that Romanian people used to use in their everyday lives in the past. We were split into two groups and my group didn’t have clients in it so I wasn’t able to see how they reacted to this museum.

After this, we left the clients back at their house so we could get lunch and they could have a nap, but we weren’t separated for that long. We went to their home after our meal to play with them for about an hour. I never understood just how useful a balloon was until this week. Just hitting a balloon around a room for a while is surprisingly entertaining. I spent most of my time playing with one client. He couldn’t speak or express himself much but he was clearly very happy and excited by playing with the balloon and the toys we brought to them. Looking at how happy the clients were was something special. Meaning so much to people you’ve never met is so odd, so rare, that it’s difficult to put words to it.

We ended the day with a few activities at the pier. We had to spell out Aurelia on the makeshift bridge with our bodies, and the footage was shot with a drone. We then did meditation, which Susan led. I’d be very cynical in general about things such as meditation, spirituality and mindfulness, but I really felt calmed and relaxed by the session. I’d definitely like to do it again sometime.

All in all today was really enjoyable and if the rest of the trip is as good as this I’d be happy out.

Oisin’s Blog – Day 1

Starting the day, the first thoughts in my mind were ‘Please give me another hour in bed!’ Wednesday’s travel really drained me, and it took me a while to get the hang of things. After our breakfast we got on the bus to Negru Voda, which was a half-hour drive. We were welcomed to the cultural centre beside the primary school. While I knew that it was International Women’s Day, I didn’t understand just how seriously it was taken in Romania. It is effectively a second birthday for women, and all the female members of the group were given a bracelet and a flower.

The Romanian group leaders told us about the town and the local schools. We then watched a play that the kindergarten children had prepared, as well as traditional Romanian dancing. This was very fun because the dancers were very talented.

When we were finished watching the performance, we had a break and our Romanian peers showed us around the town of Negru Voda. The town is small and the buildings were old and worn but the people we met were happy. The image that will stick with me was the horse-drawn carriages travelling on the road next to the cars.

The highlight of the day was without a doubt meeting the beneficiaries in the first group home we went to. The smiles on their faces as the bus arrived at the houses was indescribable. We were greeted with food first and a small number of the beneficiaries did a dance that they prepared. The effort that must have gone into preparing the food and dance – it was unbelievable. As a picky eater, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy much of the food, but it was actually very tasty. The sausages were my favourite! We spent an hour or so in groups with a small number of beneficiaries in each. We did arts and crafts with them. They enjoyed the stickers and balloons a lot. I was sad leaving but, similar to the week’s motto, the idea that I made a big difference to them is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

After this, we visited what was in fact the first Aurelia Trust group home. The building was old and worn but the building wasn’t indicative of the home. When we were speaking to one of the women who runs it, I learned a lot about our two cultures. In Romania, they aren’t very materialistic. Family and friends come first. I think that we could learn a lot from Romania in that sense, because we’ve really let go of that in Ireland.

When we got back to the hotel, we had a lesson about the Romanian language. We were given a sheet with basic Romanian phrases. Considering I had no Romanian whatsoever, the lesson was very helpful. That meant that for the rest of the week I could at least try and communicate with non-English speakers even if that was only ‘Hello’ and ‘How are you?’

It was a long and tiring day but at the end of it all, it was a most enjoyable one. Now I can really look forward to the rest of the week with lots of optimism.

Poppy’s Blog – First Impressions!

I was nervous on the way to the first group home because I wasn’t sure what to expect .
As soon as I walked off the bus and entered the gate I was greeted with a hug from a client. I thought the atmosphere was just extremely positive and happy.

Before we went into the home we were greeted with bread and salt which is a traditional welcome greeting in Romania. When I walked into the house there was a lot of food prepared for us. I felt at home at this point because they were so insistent that we had something to eat and drink which is a lot like the Irish hospitality.

After we ate the clients came in and performed a song and dance for us. I felt so emotional while they were dancing and singing because the smallest thing makes them so happy and back at home people complain about the smallest things (myself included) when they really have no idea what it’s like to have nothing.

After they had finished their dance we were spilt into separate groups and we did art with the clients. When I walked over to the table I was straight away given a piece of artwork. The clients were so happy and smiley and they would always try to give you something.

This experience was so amazing and it made me appreciate everything I have at home.

Ronan’s Blog

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.

International Women’s Day

Had an early start this morning with breakfast at 8 o clock.

Kicked off the day with a trip to the Negru Voda school where we received a warm welcome. As today was International Women’s Day all the girls were given flowers and a traditional bracelet. We also received a surprise visit from the mayor.

The children from the kindergarten performed an excellent short play for us followed by an unbelievable performance by dance students from the high school.

After lunch we went to the Negru Voda home where we were given a piece of bread that was dipped in salt as part of a traditional once entering in to the house. We then did some arts and crafts with the beneficiaries and had a great time! We’re now back at the hotel and will be having our language workshop shortly. Stay tuned for more updates on our trip!!

Siobhan’s Blog

In this blog, I will talk about our fast approaching trip to Romania. This is my first time writing a blog, so I hope you enjoy it!

I will start off by introducing myself, my name is Siobhan Maguire. I am involved in the project ‘Changing Minds’ with the four other girls from Skibbereen and six boys from Castlebar. As you may know, one part of this project is about educating people and transforming people’s negative attitudes, perception and beliefs towards disability in Romania.

The weather in Ireland recently, has been very snowy but hopefully it will all melt away and clear up, as we have plans this week! On Wednesday the 7th of March, the five of us from Skibbereen and the boys from Castlebar will hopefully travel to Dublin to take a flight to Bucharest.

During our stay in Romania, we will be taking people from the Aurelia Trust orphanages out for activities, such as a visit to a dolphinarium. I imagine that even the smallest outing would mean the world to them as it could be one of the highlights of their year!

One reason why I can’t wait to go over to Romania and help, is because I want to experience what it would be like to have a positive impact and influence on a person’s life and mood. I am also very eager to go over, because I want to have a life changing experience and see first-hand what some people go through.

That’s the end of my first blog. I hope you enjoyed it!

A week to go!

Wow! We’re getting very excited now – our project has been moving along swiftly and we’ve been getting loads of media coverage lately! Thanks so much to Daragh and Denis from the Echo who took such an interest in our project and to Jackie in the Southern Star.

We’ve been busy organising our passports, planning for our activities in Romania and preparing for our presentation at the conference in Galati. We’ve had a go at practicing mindfulness, had another workshop with Stori, recorded some thoughts on video, learned how to vlog.

We head off on Wednesday 7th March so keep an eye on developments. We’re so looking forward to meeting the other students in person – we’ve already met virtually which helped to break the ice!

Skibb Group – Our journey so far!

It’s been a busy few months for our Skibb group – the following is their first blog post on their progress to date:

We’ve been having fortnightly meetings since November with Susan where we get the opportunity to work on our project. Our first event was a Christimas Concert in Skibbereen Community School in co-operation with the music department where we were able to inform our local community about our Changing Minds project! Through donations and a raffle on the night we were delighted that we managed to raise €800 for the Aurelia Trust – this will be put to good use in Romania and will go directly towards helping and supporting people with physical and/or intellectual disabilities. The night overall was a big success, with outstanding performances from the students of SCS, and was enjoyed greatly by all.

On the 14th of December, Gráinne and Fiona from Stori Creative held a workshop with us where we learned how to plan, shoot and edit videos. We are hoping to produce a short documentary on our project and how it progresses over the next number of months. Through the workshop we gained valuable skills in video production and editing which will be of great benefit to us in the future!

On the 2nd of January we met with Mary Kate Forde who helped to design our Changing Minds website. Mary Kate had previously been out to Romania where she helped with the Tabaras that are held each summer by the Aurelia Trust. She showed us how to design and update the website and told us about her experience of working with people with disabilities in Romania.

Over the last few weeks we also gave presentations and conducted a survey with students from our school – we will upload more information about our survey and the results to the website soon!

We’ve had a busy and exciting few weeks and are now looking forward to what’s to come, especially for our trip to Romania in March!

Skibb Group

First Transnational Meeting – A great start to a great project!

Whilst all the Changing Minds partners have been working together for months and, in some cases, years, our strategic partnership officially began on the 16th October 2017. Our first Transnational Meeting – whereby representatives from each organisation met to discuss the logistics of the partnership – was held in Techirghiol near the city of Constanta in Romania on the 3rd November.

The meeting was a great success – all the partners got the opportunity to meet up and the timeline, goals, aims and activities of the project were discussed at length.

All of our groups have been busy at work since the meeting and are looking forward to the first learning activity – to be held in Techirghiol & Galati from the 7th to 14th March.

With our new website up and running make sure to keep an eye on this blog section for frequent updates from all our youth groups on the progress to date!

Included below are a few photos and a short GoPro video from our transnational meeting.

If you have any questions about our project please contact us at